As Carbon Dioxide Levels Rise, Rice Becomes Less Nutritious


One of the world’s most important food crops may be declining in quality due to greenhouse gas emissions. (Scientific American)

Where is rice a staple food? Use our resources to find out.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit, including today’s MapMaker Interactive map of rice-producing nations.

A farmer harvests rice in Bali, Indonesia, one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of rice.
Photograph by Jim Richardson, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas


  • The new study seems to discredit the idea that rising levels of atmospheric carbon benefit plant growth. Why?


  • How might rice’s lower nutritional value impact populations that rely on it as a staple food?


  • What regional populations might be most impacted by a change in rice’s nutritional value?
    • “[T]he bulk of these changes, and the greatest degree of risk, will occur among the highest rice-consuming countries with the lowest GDP.”
      • Today, these countries are primarily found in Southeast Asia: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Madagascar, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Developing countries with rising rice consumption include Guinea, Senegal, and Côte d’Ivoire.
      • The world’s biggest rice producers, China and India, are also the world’s biggest rice consumers. However, Chinese and Indian consumers are consistently relying on more diverse sources of nutrition and are in a better position to shift their dietary habits if rice becomes less nutritious.



Scientific American: As CO2 Levels Rise, Rice Becomes Less Nutritious

Nat Geo: Staple Food Crops of the World

Nat Geo: Rice Production

Nat Geo: What is a nutrient?

Nat Geo: The Paradox of Undernourishment

(extra credit!) Science Advances: Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels this century will alter the protein, micronutrients, and vitamin content of rice grains with potential health consequences for the poorest rice-dependent countries

Leave a Reply