Ag Policy Blog

White House Highlights Health Risks from Changing Climate

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Like Paul Simon repeatedly explained the 50 ways to leave your lover, the White House continues to talk about the 50 ways climate change can affect everyday people.

And like the soon-to-be jilted girlfriend in Simon's old ditty, the Obama administration hopes the meaning won't be lost or misconstrued, but the president's team will continue repeating itself on climate at the risk of being crude.

In a report released Monday, the administration looked at some of the various impacts of climate change on human health. The report, which basically cites a wide range of scientific studies, looked at issues such as heat-related deaths, effects on air quality, disasters, mental health, at-risk populations and issues surrounding food security and food safety.…

John Holdren, assistant to the President for science and technology rolled out the report with EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy; and the U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy.

The Centers for Disease Control reports there are 48 million foodborne illnesses annually, leading to 128,000 people hospitalized and approximately 3,000 deaths. The risk for food safety is that those figures could rise.

Higher temperatures and more volatile weather extremes are expected to increase exposure to certain pathogens and toxins in our food, the White House report states. "Changes in climate factors, such as temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather, are key drivers of pathogen introduction, food contamination and foodborne disease, as well as changes in the level of exposure to specific contaminants and chemical residues for crops and livestock," the report stated.

Higher levels of carbon dioxide will stimulate carbohydrate production and plant growth, but can also lower the levels of protein and minerals in some major commodities, including barley, wheat, rice and potatoes. Currently, the planet is at about 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide concentrations. Once those levels hit 540 ppm and higher, the risks increase for lower protein levels and lower mineral concentrations. The report noted that protein content isn't expected to decline significantly for corn of sorghum.

Climate change will expand the area where mold and mycotoxin attack crops such as corn, peanuts, fruits and other cereal grains. Alfatoxins are known carcinogens that can impair development in children, immune suppression and even death in cases of severe exposure. Aflatoxin contamination may increase not only in the U.S., but Europe as well. Food exposure to such toxins can cause illnesses, especially in without regulations and restrictions.

Obviously, food spoilage rates increase as well during storage under hotter or more humid environments.

Pesticide use will increase due to the expansion of various pests spurred by warmer weather and longer growing seasons. The effectiveness of pesticides may wane as well. "Increased pest pressures and reductions in the efficacy of pesticides are likely to lead to increased pesticide use, contamination in the field, and exposure within the food chain. Increased exposure to pesticides could have implications for human health. However, the extent of pesticide use and potential exposure may also reflect climate change induced choices for crop selection and land use."

Other emerging issues include higher levels of food allergies, which continue to be on the rise. Altered protein levels have the potential to alter allergy sensitivity. Another emerging issue could be zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that spread from animals to humans. Also, produce contamination could increase due to microorganisms traced back to insects.

The full report can be viewed at…

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Jay Mcginnis
4/6/2016 | 10:45 AM CDT
Darn science, just isn't for Republicans, can't the White House just do nothing like the GOP led House and Senate?
Bonnie Dukowitz
4/6/2016 | 7:47 AM CDT
Manure has a value.
tom vogel
4/5/2016 | 11:52 AM CDT
This whole thing bears a strange resemblence to some of the stuff I have been shoveling out of the barn!
4/5/2016 | 9:10 AM CDT
And yet another government study showing we need to treat the symptoms and not the cause.
4/5/2016 | 8:02 AM CDT
If they were really concerned about the environment and the safety of food, they would promote genetically engineered crops and the irradiation of food. After all, 99.9% of scientists agree both are good for the environment and food safety and do not require fuzzy math to forecast doom and gloom.
Bonnie Dukowitz
4/5/2016 | 7:15 AM CDT
I am curious, Who financed the study and were the authors Woodstock attenders and residents of Colorado?
Raymond Simpkins
4/5/2016 | 4:33 AM CDT
Really,This is what the White House is worried about?