Dietary deficiencies of zinc and iron are a substantial global public health problem. An estimated two billion people suffer these deficiencies, causing a loss of 63 million life-years annually. Most of these people depend on C 3 grains and legumes as their primary dietary source of zinc and iron. Here we report that C 3 grains and legumes have lower concentrations of zinc and iron when grown under field conditions at the elevated atmospheric CO 2 concentration predicted for the middle of this century. C 3 crops other than legumes also have lower concentrations of protein, whereas C 4 crops seem to be less affected. Differences between cultivars of a single crop suggest that breeding for decreased sensitivity to atmospheric CO 2 concentration could partly address these new challenges to global health.
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