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Richard Mellor / Brazil: austerity, debt and trade
« Last post by Richard Mellor on Today at 06:01:23 AM »
Brazil: austerity, debt and trade

by Michael Roberts

I have just returned from Brazil where I spoke at the annual Society for Political Economy (SEP) conference at the University Federal Fluminense (UFF) in Rio de Janeiro and at the  economics faculties of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the  State University of Sao Paolo.

I did so as the currencies of the major so-called emerging market countries dived against the dollar.  The moves by President Trump to ?up the ante? on tariffs on trade against everybody and the resultant retaliation planned by the EU and China will hit the  exports of these economies hard.  At the same time, the US Federal  Reserve has raised its policy interest rate yet further.  That will  eventually increase the cost of servicing dollar debt owed by these  emerging economies.  So the emerging market debt crisis is getting  closer.  Argentina has already had to go to the IMF for a $50bn loan and its stock market dropped nearly 10% in one day this week. The South  African rand is also heading back towards its all-time low against the  dollar that it achieved two years ago.

Brazil is part of this new trade and currency crisis.  The Brazilian  real has taken a hit too, halving in value against the US dollar since  2014 and heading back to a record low since the Great Recession of R$4  to the US$.

Unemployment remains near highs.

And this is at a time when the country is bracing itself for a  presidential election in October.  The leading candidate in the polls is  former president Lula of the Workers Party (PT). But he is languishing  in jail convicted on a supposed corruption charge.  He is unlikely to be  able to stand in October.  So the election result is wide open.   And with 50% of Brazilians saying that they are not going to vote (even  though it is compulsory!), that is an indication of the disillusionment  that most Brazilians have with their mainly corrupt politicians and  with the prospects of Brazil getting out of its slump that the economy  has been since the end of the commodity price boom in 2010.

The Great Recession of 2008-9 hit the economy as everywhere else, but  when the prices for Brazil?s key exports (food and energy) also  plummeted, the economy entered a deep depression that troughed in  2015-6.  The mild recovery from that is now stalling.

The incumbent administration of President Temer came into office through a constitutional coup engineered by right-wing parties in Congress that led to the  impeachment of the Workers Party president Dilma Rousseff.  From the  start, Temer aimed to impose the classic ?neoliberal? policies of  ?austerity? in the form of drastic cuts in public services, reductions  in public sector jobs and government investment.  Above all, Temer aimed  to massacre state pensions.  The slump and the high level of public  debt were to be paid for by Brazilian households.  No wonder Temer?s  popularity ratings have slumped to a record low of just 4%.  But public  sector deficits (now around 8% of GDP) and debt must be brought under  control to re-establish business and foreign investor ?confidence?, so  the argument goes.

As I showed in a previous post, Brazil has the highest public debt ratio among emerging economies (IMF data).

But as I also showed in that post, the cause of the high budget  deficit and debt was not ?excessive? government spending on pensions  etc.  Instead it was continual recurring crises in the capitalist sector  and the low level of tax revenue ? because the rich do not pay high  taxes and continually avoid them anyway, while the majority pay sales  taxes that are highly regressive ie. the poorer pay more as a percentage  of income than the richer.

The slump has been caused by the collapse of the capitalist sector in  Brazil and the cost is being shifted onto the public sector and average  Brazilians through austerity measures. The results of the slump and  austerity were evident to me on my latest visit to Brazil: in the  rundown streets of the cities of Rio and SP; and from the comments of  people and the attendees at my meetings on the continual freeze in  education and health spending etc ? and in the high levels of crime.

So it was no surprise that SEP asked me to speak on the impact of austerity globally.  Austerity, investment and profit.  Actually my paper made two points: first, that austerity was not the  cause of the slump or Great Recession in global capitalism.  On the  contrary, government spending was rising in most countries before the  crash, as economies globally boomed.  See below for state spending in  emerging economies (my calcs).

But more important, I wanted to show that, while Brazilians must  resist and reverse ?austerity? with all their might to protect public  services and welfare, just increasing public spending will not solve the  underlying problem of capitalist booms and slumps ? as the Keynesians  claim.

In my paper, I presented both theoretical arguments and empirical  evidence to conclude that just boosting government spending will not  deliver the sufficient ?multiplier? effect on growth, income and jobs  wherever the capitalist mode of production dominated.  Capitalist production only revives with an increase in profitability and overall profits; and a slump and ?austerity? are the ways that  capitalism can get out of a crisis ? at labour?s expense.  I showed that  the impact of a rise in profitability on growth under capitalism ? what my colleague G Carchedi and I have called the Marxist multiplier ? is much greater than boosting government spending (the Keynesian multiplier). So the policy of austerity is not just some ideological pro-market irrationality as Keynesians claim, but has rationality in the context of low profitability for the dominant capitalist sector.

And as I pointed out in my other lectures in Rio and SP universities,  the Long Depression continues and now it seems to be entering a new  phase (The state of world economy):  first, with the growing risk of a major trade war between Trump?s  America and everybody else; and second, with the rising cost of debt  biting into corporate stability, particularly in ?emerging economies?  like Brazil.  The repayment schedule for debt owed to foreigners will  reach a peak next year, as the costs of servicing and ?rolling over?  that debt will have risen.

And as I have shown before, Brazil has the highest interest costs on  debt of all major emerging economies (see BR in the graph below).

The global economy has been experiencing a mild upswing (within the  Long Depression) from a near recession in 2016.  But in 2018 it looks  like growth globally will peak and the underlying low levels of profitability and investment will  reappear, along with a new debt crisis in non-financial corporate sector  itself, to pose new risks.  We shall see.
Source: Brazil: austerity, debt and trade
Infoshop News / Fact-Checking Family Separation
« Last post by Alternative Media Project on Today at 06:01:21 AM »
Fact-Checking Family Separation

With nearly 2,000 immigrant children separated from their parents in just six weeks alone, there is an unprecedented human rights disaster unfolding at our border.
Source: Fact-Checking Family Separation
Infoshop News / The Syrian Underground Railroad
« Last post by Alternative Media Project on Today at 06:01:21 AM »
The Syrian Underground Railroad

via Crimethinc In this report, comrades based on the Syrian border in Turkey describe how they assisted Syrian refugees in escaping to central Europe and tease out the lessons for people engaged in similar work in the United States. Although Syrians themselves led the majority of initiatives to respond to the crisis, people of all […]
Source: The Syrian Underground Railroad
GOP Accuses Dems of 'Breach of Decorum' for Bringing Migrant Kids to House Floor in Protest of Trump's Child Separation Policy


She began banging the gavel and accusing the speaker of breaching decorum.


House Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisha m (D-NM) said caucus members traveled to the southern border to see immigrant families being ?terrorized by the most anti-immigrant, xenophobic and racist administration? she's seen.

?I?m here with two children today to call on this administration to stop this cruel, inhumane practice that betrays who we are as a country,? she said of President Donald Trump's child separation policy resulting in child internment camps. ?The president could make the decision to end this practice right now and do the right thing. Failing that, Congress must act."

After Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) began to speak, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who was presiding over the floor, shut him down.

?The gentlemen?s time has expired,? she said before adding that the "gentleman is no longer recognized."

She accused Gutiérrez of a "breach of decorum" before banging her gavel and calling for a recess.

Watch below:


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Source: GOP Accuses Dems of 'Breach of Decorum' for Bringing Migrant Kids to House Floor in Protest of Trump's Child Separation Policy
Infoshop News / A philosopher thinks technology could make anarchists? dreams come true
« Last post by Alternative Media Project on Yesterday at 06:01:26 PM »
A philosopher thinks technology could make anarchists? dreams come true

via Quartz by John Detrixhe Distrust of central authority is an idea that?s taken many forms over the years, from the Magna Carta in the 13th century to the French and American revolutions 500 years later. Anarchy is another old idea and it pushes these notions far further: The political philosophy fully rejects the state?s […]
Source: A philosopher thinks technology could make anarchists? dreams come true
AlterNet / Why Universal Health Care from Birth Is a Bedrock Right for Any Civilized Society
« Last post by AlterNet on Yesterday at 06:01:23 PM »
Why Universal Health Care from Birth Is a Bedrock Right for Any Civilized Society

It?s better late than never to enact this progressive goal begun in FDR?s presidency.

It is well past time that we make Medicare for All a reality. It should have been enacted decades ago.

On July 2, 1932, Franklin Roosevelt, in his speech accepting the Democratic Party?s presidential nomination, ?pledge[d]? a new deal for the American people.? He proclaimed, ?Let us now and here highly resolve to resume the country?s interrupted march along the path of real progress, of real justice, of real equality for all of our citizens, great and small.?

He believed that the government should be a force for good for everyone. He explained:

?There are two ways of viewing the Government?s duty in matters affecting economic and social life. The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small business man?. But it is not and never will be the theory of the Democratic Party.?

Roosevelt knew what government of, by, and for the people should do. He had a clear and far-sighted vision. He recognized that with the rapid industrialization and urbanization of the last half-century came new insecurities. He understood that good-paying jobs, as well as first-class education and insurance against the loss of wages, were essential. He knew that for American workers to have true economic security, they would require a healthy mind and body. Therefore, he saw that we must have universal guaranteed health care starting at birth.

FDR considered proposing universal health care in 1935, at the same time as Social Security. But the forces arrayed against it were too strong. Nevertheless, Roosevelt and his colleagues thought that universal, guaranteed, government-sponsored health insurance was right around the corner.

In 1938, Molly Dewson, who was one of the members of the three-person Social Security Board (the predecessor to the Social Security Commissioner), gave a speech about Social Security at the Women?s City Club of Boston. In it, she predicted, ?Adequate health protection may still be mostly pious hope. But it is not a vain hope; [it is] already on the horizon.?

But World War II intervened. Even then, universal government-sponsored health care was not far from the thoughts of Roosevelt and his colleagues. In Roosevelt?s 1945 State of the Union message, he talked about his post-War plans:

?An expanded social security program, and adequate health and education programs, must play essential roles in a program designed to support individual productivity and mass purchasing power. I shall communicate further with the Congress on these subjects at a later date.?

But that later date never came. He died a few months after that message. His successor, President Harry Truman, pushed tirelessly for universal health care, but to no avail. The special interests arrayed against him were still too strong.

So, led by President Lyndon Johnson, those who understood the importance of universal, government-sponsored health insurance decided to take a novel, incremental approach: Medicare. Just a few years after its enactment, Medicare was extended to people with disabilities. It looked like just a matter of time until children would be added, and then everyone else.

If Medicare for All had been enacted decades ago, as it should have been, it would have alleviated enormous suffering and saved lives, not to mention trillions of dollars of our nation?s wealth. We should make it a reality now.

For those who recognize that government should be a force for good in our lives, who support Social Security, a minimum wage, eight-hour workdays, and all the other benefits government has brought us, Medicare for All is a critical step forward in that march of progress. Better late than never.


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Source: Why Universal Health Care from Birth Is a Bedrock Right for Any Civilized Society
John Kelly Is 'Barely Tolerating' Donald Trump ? And Lets 'Him Do What He Wants Even If It Leads to Impeachment?

"At least this chapter of American history would come to a close.?

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and President Donald Trump are said to be ?barely tolerating? each other.

According to Politico, Kelly?s ?status in the White House has changed in recent months? amid recent condemnation of Trump?s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.

?[H]e and the president are now seen as barely tolerating one another,? Politico notes. ?According to four people close to Kelly, the former Marine general has largely yielded his role as the enforcer in the West Wing as his relationship with Trump has soured.?

The report adds: ?While Kelly himself once believed he stood between Trump and chaos, he has told at least one person close to him that he may as well let the president do what he wants, even if it leads to impeachment ? at least this chapter of American history would come to a close.?

Source: John Kelly Is 'Barely Tolerating' Donald Trump ? And Lets 'Him Do What He Wants Even If It Leads to Impeachment?
Children in cages. The roots of this vicious, cruel crime.

Children in cages at a US border detention center
Sean O'Torain

Firstly, a personal comment.  I am originally from Ireland. I see that some creature with an Irish name is among the supporters on the Internet defending Trump and Sessions tearing the children from their families' arms and putting them in cages. 

To this person with the Irish name and to all who support the Trump cruelty, child abuse and kidnapping at the border, as a person born in Ireland I say this: Do you think they should have built a wall back in the mid 1800's when hundreds of thousands of starving Irish peasants were landing on US shores? I am confident that the answer to this question would be a resounding ?no?

These people came here because Irish people were dying by the tens of thousands as food was exported to England by English landlords. In Ireland Before and After the Famine, (it is more accurate to call it the starvation), author Cormac O?Grada documents that in 1845, a year of mass starvation in Ireland, 3,251,907 quarters (8 bushels = 1 quarter)) of corn were exported from Ireland to Britain. That same year, 257,257 sheep were exported to Britain. In 1846, another starvation year, 480,827 swine, and 186,483 oxen were exported to Britain. The Great Irish Famine.

Linked to this is the tens of thousands of undocumented people from Ireland in the US today. None of the children of these immigrants are being seized and put in cages, not that they should be, but this shows the racism of what is going on.  

Then there is this the most important and fundamental question.  Any decent human being is disgusted by what is being done by the US capitalist government to the children and the families at the border. These are children; they are our children, the children of the working class, poor rural workers many of them. It is very good that so many people are correctly speaking out and demonstrating against this crime. But that is not enough. To have a chance to stop this brutality, the roots of this brutality must be understood. All the capitalist mass media in the US from right to left, from Fox News to MSNBC, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to the Los Angeles Times, all collude to prevent any discussion on what is at the root of this humanitarian crisis

They collude to prevent any discussion of why it is that Latin America, Central America and Mexico are so violent and so poverty stricken that people risk their lives to try and come to the US. What the US capitalist mass media does is hide the reality that the reason that these areas are so violent and poverty stricken is because of the policies of the US profit-addicted corporations, that is, US capitalism - US imperialism. US capitalism has dominated Latin and Central America and Mexico for centuries and continues to dominate the continent. See the book ?Open Veins of Latin America? by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. This was one of only two books Isabel Allende was able to take with her when she was driven out of Chile after the US organized military coup orchestrated by US war criminals Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.  The coup overthrew the elected socialist government of her husband Salvadore Allende, murdered him and tens of thousands of other Chilean trade unionists and socialists-----people fighting for land reform and a more equal distribution of the wealth of the country. 

See also the review of  ?The century of US capitalism in Latin America" by Thomas O'Brien. The review of this book, neither book or review written by left wingers states: ?Throughout the nineteenth century and up to the 1930s, American corporations stridently resisted local opposition as they secured what they wanted in Latin America, cheap labor, plentiful raw materials, and favorable business conditions.?

 ?Stridently resisted?. These writers, supporters of capitalism, are good with their euphemisms. This euphemism describes what were US organized military coups and mass slaughter in Latin America. There were 200,000, mostly indigenous peasants massacred in Guatemala alone. A central organizing location for these operations is in the US, run by the US capitalist government and cynically called "The School of the Americas".

Consider the statements of Smedley Butler the Major General, in the US Marine Corps and one of the most decorated US soldiers in history.  In his book War is a Racket, he wrote: ?I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested." ?I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for National City bank to collect revenues.?  "I spent most of my time (in the marines) being a high class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. I was a racketeers for capitalism". From the horses mouth. It is no wonder there are not too many Hollywood epics about Butler as there are about Patton, Washington, and mediocre figures like Custer.

The role of NAFTA, the North American Free  (Free!!!) Trade Agreement is also part of this. NAFTA allowed US capital to go where it liked and do what it liked in Mexico. There it has wiped out 
millions of subsistence farmers driving them from their land and into the cities where they could get no work. Many of these are the people and their children whom today are heading to the border to try and get work and something to eat. On top of that, the US provides the huge market for the drugs that are produced in Mexico and other Latin American countries and from which comes so much of the violence.

Many of these people displaced by market savagery are people in these countries who would be starving and instead get caught up in the drug business and cartels and the violence that accompanies it. It is estimated that 90% of the illegal guns in Mexico come from the US. US gun capitalists are arming the Mexican drug cartels just as they are arming about anybody who wants to be armed in the US.

At the root of all of this and its driving force is the drive for profits of the US corporations.  It is the offensive of the US corporations that is, US capitalism and its government and military machine.  

A friend once asked me why these governments of Latin America did not help themselves. This made me think.  Every time the working peoples of Latin America have tried to help themselves, have elected governments and built movements which tried to bring about land reform, which tried to stop the mostly foreign corporations from looting their resources, which tried to improve the lives of their peoples, US capitalism intervened to overthrow these governments and put these movements down. And when necessary the US did this with extreme violence.  

The nightmare of poverty and violence in Central and Latin America and Mexico is because of the policies of US imperialism and their boot lickers in the region. A few names make this clear:  Mexico, Chile, Grenada, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Columbia, Cuba, Panama and on and on. Look them up. See how US imperialism intervened again and again; and all for profit. So much for the whining, lying hypocrisy of US capitalism/US imperialism, and its mouthpieces from its extreme right to its liberal wing about its great support for democracy.

One thing that all the media outlets and politicians of US capitalism have in common, from the Republicans to the Democrats, from Fox News to MSNBC, from Trump to Sanders, is that they always refuse to deal with the responsibility of US capitalism, of the US corporations, of the US profit system, for the monstrous suffering of the peoples of the world, the destruction of the environment and in this case the cruelty against the children and families at the border. 
US Imperialism and its drive for profit is responsible for creating the conditions in Latin and Central America which drives people to try and get something to eat and a job in the US. Just like US and European imperialism created the conditions in the Middle East and North Africa which drive the people from these areas to seek something to eat and a job in the more economically wealthy imperialist countries in Europe. Of course, part of the reason these countries are more economically wealthy is that they looted and continue to loot the countries of the Middle East, just as the US is economically more wealthy partly because it looted and continues to loot Latin America. Imperialism impoverishes the countries it dominates. Hence the wars and the people fleeing to get a job and something to eat and to escape the violence that imperialism causes. For every action there is a reaction.  

People in the US who defend the grotesque cruelty on the borders are apologists for creatures like Sessions and Trump and the US corporations which loot Latin and Central America and Mexico and at the same time live off the backs of the US working class and poison the air, the water, the food on which the US people have to live.   

The leaders of the 14 million strong US trade union movement sit quiet as usual; cowed as they are by US capitalism, supporters as they are of US capitalism, living high off the hog as a reward for preventing their members from confronting the US corporations and US capitalism.  These so-called leaders also have responsibility for the barbarous cruelty being suffered by the children and families on the border, they too have blood on their hands.

The big forces that are responsible for this cruelty must be identified and opposed. It is the case that a mass movement must be built but there is also individual responsibility. The cops and border guards and the people who are imprisoning these children should look at what they are doing and refuse to go along. Most of them are organized in some sort of union and they should collectively organize and refuse to seize and imprison the children.  Once more the union leaders, the leaders of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations disgrace themselves and betray all working people not only in the US but in Latin America. They more than betray. See the role of many of these leaders in the so called American Institute of Free labor Development (AIFLD) Through AIFLD many of these leaders actually cooperated with the US government, corporations and CIA to help put down workers and peasants movements in Latin and Central America over the decades.  Read more about this hereand hereand also in our conference notes here.

There is also the responsibility of church goers. Sessions and Trump and co are quoting the Bible to justify their crimes and cruelty against the children and families. There are tens of thousands of churches in the US. Most of these claim the Bible as the foundation of their belief system. There are tens of millions of members of these churches. These people also have a responsibility, as do members of other religious organizations. They should organize in their churches to stand up, speak out and demand that their churches openly state that their Bible does not justify these crimes. And if their churches do not do this then they should take action. They should fight to change their organizations, their churches, from the inside or if necessary leave those churches that refuse to condemn what its going on in the name of the bible and either join a church that will condemn this or rethink their belief system. Flipping through the channels yesterday I sto
pped at a megachurch service and the preacher was talking about some guy telling his brother something completely irrelevant from a text that cannot be verified in any way at all. And this as children are being ripped from their parents and thrown into jails all around him and this in the name of the bible upon which he bases himself and his church. What sort of religion is this?

The Sessions clan has a long association with Southern racists. What Christian can support what Sessions, Trump and anyone else that doesn?t act, are doing to these families?

US working class people must raise their voices not only against this cruelty at the borders, but against the corporate capitalist system that causes this and which at the same time exploits the US working class. Working people in the US must build a movement against the US corporations and link with working people in Latin America, Central America and Mexico to end capitalism which is a catastrophe for all the working people of the Americas and for the environment of the Americas.

Source: Children in cages. The roots of this vicious, cruel crime.
Climate Change Will Make Rice Less Nutritious, Putting Millions of the World?s Poor At Risk

As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, rice plants produce fewer vitamins and other key nutrients. This could worsen hunger, malnutrition, child stunting and other diet-related health problems.


Rice is the primary food source for more than 3 billion people around the world. Many are unable to afford a diverse and nutritious diet that includes complete protein, grains, fruits and vegetables. They rely heavily on more affordable cereal crops, including rice, for most of their calories.

My research focuses on health risks associated with climate variability and change. In a recently published study, I worked with scientists from China, Japan, Australia and the United States to assess how the rising carbon dioxide concentrations that are fueling climate change could alter the nutritional value of rice. We conducted field studies in Asia for multiple genetically diverse rice lines, analyzing how rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere altered levels of protein, micronutrients and B vitamins.

Our data showed for the first time that rice grown at the concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide scientists expect the world to reach by 2100 has lower levels of four key B vitamins. These findings also support research from other field studies showing rice grown under such conditions contains less protein, iron and zinc, which are important in fetal and early child development. These changes could have a disproportionate impact on maternal and child health in the poorest rice-dependent countries, including Bangladesh and Cambodia.

Carbon dioxide and plant growth

Plants obtain the carbon they need to grow primarily from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and draw other required nutrients from the soil. Human activities ? mainly fossil fuel combustion and deforestation ? raised atmospheric CO2 concentrations from about 280 parts per million during pre-industrial times to 410 parts per million today. If global emission rates continue on their current path, atmospheric CO2 concentrations could reach over 1,200 parts per million by 2100 (including methane and other greenhouse gas emissions).

Higher concentrations of CO2 are generally acknowledged to stimulate plant photosynthesis and growth. This effect could make the cereal crops that remain the world?s most important sources of food, such as rice, wheat and corn, more productive, although recent research suggests that predicting impacts on plant growth is complex.

Concentrations of minerals critical for human health, particularly iron and zinc, do not change in unison with CO2 concentrations. Current understanding of plant physiology suggests that major cereal crops ? particularly rice and wheat ? respond to higher CO2 concentrations by synthesizing more carbohydrates (starches and sugars) and less protein, and by reducing the quantity of minerals in their grains.

After steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger appears to be on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the global population. FAO, CC BY-ND

The importance of micronutrients

Worldwide, approximately 815 million people worldwide are food-insecure, meaning that they do not have reliable access to sufficient quantities of safe, nutritious and affordable food. Even more people ? approximately 2 billion ? have deficiencies of important micronutrients such as iron, iodine and zinc.

Insufficient dietary iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia, a condition in which there are too few red blood cells in the body to carry oxygen. This is the most common type of anemia. It can cause fatigue, shortness of breath or chest pain, and can lead to serious complications, such as heart failure and developmental delays in children.

Zinc deficiencies are characterized by loss of appetite and diminished sense of smell, impaired wound healing, and weakened immune function. Zinc also supports growth and development, so sufficient dietary intake is important for pregnant women and growing children.

Higher carbon concentrations in plants reduce nitrogen amounts in plant tissue, which is critical for the formation of B vitamins. Different B vitamins are required for key functions in the body, such as regulating the nervous system, turning food into energy and fighting infections. Folate, a B vitamin, reduces the risk of birth defects when consumed by pregnant women.

Anemia affects one-third of women of reproductive age globally ? or about 613 million women. FAO, CC BY-ND

Significant nutrition losses

We carried out our field studies in China and Japan, where we grew different strains of rice outdoors. To simulate higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations, we used Free-Air CO2 Enrichment, which blows CO2 over fields to maintain concentrations that are expected later in the century. Control fields experience similar conditions except for the higher CO2 concentrations.

On average, the rice that we grew in air with elevated CO2 concentrations contained 17 percent less vitamin B1 (thiamine) than rice grown under current CO2 concentrations; 17 percent less vitamin B2 (riboflavin); 13 percent less vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid); and 30 percent less vitamin B9 (folate). Our study is the first to identify that concentrations of B vitamins in rice are reduced with higher CO2.

We also found average reductions of 10 percent in protein, 8 percent in iron and 5 percent in zinc. We found no change in levels of vitamin B6 or calcium. The only increase we found was in vitamin E levels for most strains.

Rice within the octagon in this field is part of an experiment designed to grow rice under different atmospheric conditions. Rice grown under carbon dioxide concentrations of 568 to 590 parts per million is less nutritious, with lower amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals. Dr. Toshihiro HASEGAWA, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization of Japan, CC BY-ND

Worsening micronutrient deficiencies

At present, about 600 million people ? mostly in Southeast Asia ? get more than half of their daily calories and protein directly from rice. If nothing is done, the declines we found would likely worsen the overall burden of undernutrition. They also could affect early childhood development through impacts that include worsened effects from diarrheal disease and malaria.

The potential health risks associated with CO2-induced nutritional deficits are directly correlated to the lowest overall gross domestic product per capita. This suggests that such changes would have serious potential consequences for countries already struggling with poverty and undernutrition. Few people would associate fossil fuel combustion and deforestation with the nutritional content of rice, but our research clearly shows one way in which emitting fossil fuels could worsen world hunger challenges.

How could climate change affect other key plants?

Unfortunately, today there is no entity at the federal, state or business level that provides long-term funding to evaluate how rising CO2 levels could affect plant chemistry and nutritional quality. But CO2-induced changes have significant implications, ranging from medicinal plants to nutrition, food safety and food allergies. Given the potential impacts, which may already be occurring, there is a clear and urgent need to invest in this research.

The ConversationIt is also critical to identify options for avoiding or lessening these risks, from traditional plant breeding to genetic modification to supplements. Rising CO2 concentrations are driving climate change. What role these emissions will play in altering all aspects of plant biology, including the nutritional quality of the crops that we use for food, feed, fiber and fuel, remains to be determined.

Kristie Ebi, Professor of Global Health and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Source: Climate Change Will Make Rice Less Nutritious, Putting Millions of the World?s Poor At Risk
Inter Press Service - Labour / Trump is Here to Stay and Change the World
« Last post by Inter Press Service on June 19, 2018, 06:00:41 PM »
Trump is Here to Stay and Change the World

Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality. If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump […]

The post Trump is Here to Stay and Change the World appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: Trump is Here to Stay and Change the World
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