Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for May, 2014

High CO2 levels produce nutrient deficiencies in grains and legumes

I’ve just read something that puts a new twist on global warming and increasing CO2 levels: as CO2 levels rise, some grains and legumes will become significantly less nutritious than they are today.

Researchers from American universities, together with scientists from Australia, Israel and Japan, tested how multiple varieties of wheat, rice, field peas, soybeans, maize and sorghum fared in fields exposed to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels like those expected in the middle of this century, i.e. 550 ppm by 2050, cf. 400 ppm nowadays.

The scientists found significantly decreased concentrations of zinc and iron in wheat, rice, field peas and soybeans grown at high CO2 concentrations, while wheat and rice showed lower levels of protein content at high CO2. One of the researchers, Andrew Leakey from the University of Illinois, points out that iron and zinc deficiency is already a problem for 2 billion people.

Nutrients in sorghum and maize remained relatively stable at higher CO2 levels because these crops use a type of photosynthesis, called C4, which already concentrates carbon dioxide in their leaves, Leakey said.

More information is available here but I learned about it via an email bulletin called The Alchemist, available from

Iceland’s whale meat faces increasing protests

In early April I wrote a blog called Iceland’s whaling under pressure again, in which I documented the campaign by American environmental and animal welfare groups to put pressure on wholesalers not to buy fish from the fishing company HB Grandi and also on companies not to buy from wholesalers who do business with HB Grandi. The reason was that HB Grandi is linked to Hvalur hf., the Icelandic whaling company, through Hvalur’s owner, Kristjan Loftsson.

I also mentioned in the blog that a shipment of 2000 tonnes of fin whale meat was being exported to Japan via the freight ship Alma, as previous attempts to get the meat to its destination had been met by protests.

Although the freight ship encountered opposition on the way – protests were organised in South Africa and so the ship could not moor in Durban as planned, and opposition also occurred in Mauritius where the ship had to take fuel while offshore – the meat has finally arrived in Osaka. The Icelandic weekly newspaper Frettatiminn reported on Friday that the importer was the same company that imported Icelandic whale meat in 2008, the Asian Trading Co. Ltd in Tokyo.

Frettatiminn also said that 13 environmental groups had protested Iceland’s whaling activities at a seafood expo in Brussels during the week. This seems to be a direct continuation of the Whales Need Us campaign that I wrote about earlier, both in the blog and in an article for IPS. The article said that environmental groups have written to the largest seafood buyers in Europe and urged them to ensure that the fish they buy does not come from companies connected with Icelandic whaling.

Iceland’s whaling is definitely becoming the focus of worldwide attention.

Monitoring of pesticide residues in Icelandic produce – who pays?

Icelandic vegetable farmers met recently and came up with two resolutions. One of them was a complaint about vegetable farmers having to pay for their produce being monitored for pesticide residues. They said it was a consumer issue rather than an agricultural issue, and thus should be paid for by the State. This has always been the case in the past.

I  don’t know how the system operates in other countries, but to my mind if farmers take on the responsibility of ensuring that pesticide residues are not found in their produce, i.e. they make sure they don’t use them shortly before the produce is put on the market, then that’s a good thing  – as long it’s the irresponsible farmers who get fined or have their produce removed from the market.

Icelandic farmers generally don’t use as many pesticides as farmers elsewhere, partly because we don’t have as many pests and diseases as elsewhere, but residues have sometimes been found. It’s even better, of course, if farmers practise organic farming….