Your food is so stressed out, it’s engaged in chemical warfare
Remember that, the next time you stress-eat with a plateful of corn cobs.
And it’s not just the issue of how the food was handled and transported.
A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), published in the website of the World Economic Forum, said crops such as wheat and maize are generating more potential toxins to protect themselves from extreme weather, such as the El Niño that just past, and the La Niña that followed it.
The UNEP report said the “defense chemicals” that the plants release are harmful to people and animals if consumed for a long period.
“Crops are responding to drought conditions and increases in temperature just like humans do when faced with a stressful situation,” Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist and director of the Division of Early Warning and Assessment at UNEP, was quoted in the report.
The report said extreme weather changes prevent plants from converting nitrates they absorbed into nutritious amino acids and proteins.
Once people eat plants that are loaded with nitrates, their red blood cells will not be able to transport oxygen into their bodies.
Other crops that “hoard” nitrates when stressed out are barley, soybeans, millet and sorghum.
The report also said some plants like cassava, flax, maize and sorghum become so shocked by sudden large amounts of rain after a long drought that they accumulate hydrogen cyanide, more commonly known as prussic acid.
The UNEP said prussic acid is one of the ingredients used in some types of chemical warfare that interferes with oxygen flow in humans and could be debilitating under short-term exposure.
Cases of nitrate or hydrogen cyanide poisoning in humans were reported in the Philippines in 2005, McGlade said.
McGlade said there is also an unmonitored rise in exposure to aflatoxins, or molds that affect plant crops and raise the risk of liver damage, cancer and blindness, as well as stunting of fetuses and infants due to shifting weather patterns.
Aflatoxin is usually found peanuts and other root crops.