Climate Change at the Table: Rising CO2 May Affect Your Bread

Wheat harvests across Europe are showing a deficiency of gluten, the protein that gives bread elasticity, as mounting levels of atmospheric CO2 keep plants from getting enough nitrogen to synthesize the protein. German scientists predict that by 2050, bread could rise 20 percent less, giving it the texture of a sponge cake rather than a baguette. Growing levels of CO2 will likely affect the nitrogen uptake of grain crops around the world, and elevated CO2 levels are already suspected of contributing to the global rice shortage. The researchers see two options: add massive quantities of polluting nitrogen fertilizers to crops, or turn to genetically modified versions that are more efficient at producing gluten and capturing nitrogen.