World Food Crisis Looms. How Investors Can Help …
Your parents probably told you to eat your vegetables so you could grow up strong and healthy.
Well, if you give the same advice to your children and grandchildren, you might be wasting your time.
That’s because our farms are turning into fields of junk food.
Cutting-edge research indicates that fruits and vegetables may become less nutritious as carbon-dioxide (CO2) levels rise in the atmosphere.
Higher CO2 levels in the air strip our crops of key micronutrients that we need to survive, according to a new Politico story by Helena Bottemiller Evich.
And that is an opportunity for investors.
It is not supposed to be this way. Sunlight gives plants the energy to create food from water and CO2. The process is called photosynthesis.
Higher CO2 levels increase photosynthesis. And you’d think that would help plants grow faster and healthier.
Yet something’s wrong. Plants are packing in more carbohydrates, which squeezes out proteins and key minerals like iron and zinc.
The result is fields of junk food …
|These veggies may have been robbed of vital nutrients because excess CO2 has thrown their metabolisms out of whack.|
It’s a concept Irakli Loladze first learned in 1998 as Ph.D. student in Arizona.
The primary food of zooplankton is algae. Scientists were able to dramatically increase algae growth with light. The result was an abundance of food for the microscopic sea creatures.
Except, the zooplankton were still starving. While plentiful, the algae lacked the nutrients that could keep the hungry microorganisms alive.
Loladze, now a math professor at Bryan College in Lincoln, Neb., has spent the past two decades researching these rising CO2 levels and their impacts on plant life.
His view is apocalyptic. He told Politico:
“We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history.”
Lewis Ziska, a plant biologist, spends most of his day studying the nutritional effects of plant breeding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As a wildflower, goldenrod has not changed much in 175 years. Its pollen is an important source of protein for bees.
But, Ziska found the protein content has been in steady decline since the Industrial Revolution. And bee populations are dwindling in lockstep. That’s because bees can’t survive if they don’t consume enough protein.
These discoveries indicate that overdosing the Earth on CO2 could deliver a fatal double-whammy to the human race …
One, humans could literally starve from eating food that has no nutrition. Two, bees could go extinct and our crops could die off because there are no bees to pollinate them.
For investors, this is opportunity.
It also helps that that this is the era of invention, the New Gilded Age.
The exponential progression of information technology, coupled with abundant capital and entrepreneurship, means anything is possible.
Add that to today’s ubiquitous, affordable access to supercomputers … plus advances in data analytics and modeling … and you have a recipe for new-level problem-solving.
Biotechnology companies are already on the case using CRISPR-Cas9 …
The gene-editing technique allows scientists to precisely edit an organism’s DNA, removing the bits that lead to unfavorable outcomes. This technology can even let scientists build life from scratch.
Organisms are constantly undergoing this process naturally. They evolve. It just takes time. Gene editing speeds the process — shaving off years, decades and, in some cases, millennia.
CRISPR-Cas9 has the potential to speed up new crop development by several orders of magnitude. And the process should be safe.
Agricultural technology companies are in the mix, too. Tractors use sophisticated tracking and self-driving systems. They have sensors to identify either pesky weeds or crops that need more water.
And everything is being networked so data can be crunched and methods perfected.
Related story: This Start-up is Planting the Seeds to Disrupt Farming for Good.
The environmental debate is a thorny subject. It has become politicized.
It’s hard enough to sustain momentum on discussions about climate-change, let alone begin discussion about what CO2 is doing to the food we eat. Yet, there is a growing body of evidence that our food supply is in peril.
There is a group of enterprising companies like Monsanto Co. (MON) and Deere & Co. (DE) that are rising to this challenge. Investors should begin getting acquainted with these firms, and many others, right now.
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