In the new research scientists warn that some types of crops produce specific chemicals as a protective measure against extreme weather conditions. These compounds make plant food more dangerous for humans and animals.
These conclusions appeared in the paper presented by the United Nations Environment Programme. UNEP compared plants’ behavior with human response to stress.
Plants absorb different compounds from soil, water and air. This list includes nitrates that can be transformed into useful compounds like proteins. However, the process slows or even stops during long drought; plants accumulate nitrates under these conditions. Consumption of nitrates in high doses affects red blood cells and decreases the quality of the oxygen transportation. Scientists named wheat, maize, soybeans and some other crops that can accumulate toxic compounds because of drought.
Good rainfall also endangers plant consumers, according to the study. When rains replace prolonged drought, crops became exposed to another stress, which leads to the rising of levels of hydrogen cyanide that is also known as prussic acid. The compound presents in such species as apples, maize, sorghum and cherries. And the temperatures’ rising increases the risk of contamination by aflatoxins that are associated with cancers and other health disorders. European countries will likely meet with this problem, if the situation won’t change and the global temperature will continue to rise.
“Toxic crops can lead to neurological diseases among humans but the greatest challenge is the incidence of cancer,” said in his interview Alex Ezeh, an executive director of the African Population Health and Research Center.
The report also found that the ability to detect these toxins was becoming less expensive and more mobile, which would help ensure that the food being produced and consumed is safe. It proposed a list of eight ideas farmers and agricultural experts can adopt to try to limit damage from more crop toxins, such as mapping contamination hotspots and building better evidence about what is happening now with the toxins in their area.
Scientists also suggest that developing crop varieties designed to cope with extreme weather could help reduce the levels of toxic chemicals in food.