Global warming could hurt pasta industry

Wheat is especially vulnerable to rising temperatures, leading to grim forecasts about the world's production over the next several decades.

By Kim Peterson Dec 13, 2012 10:10AM
woman cooking -- Ableimages, Lifesize, Getty ImagesCould global warming spell the end of pasta? That's the case being made by Newsweek Magazine.

Here's how it would play out, writes Mark Hertsgaard: Pasta is mainly made from wheat, and scientists say the world's wheat crop will suffer tremendously with rising temperatures and droughts brought on by global warming.

Of the three grains that make up the foundation of human diets -- wheat, corn and rice -- wheat is the most sensitive to high temperatures, Hertsgaard writes. "Wheat is a cool-season crop. High temperatures are negative for its growth and quality, no doubt about it," Frank Manthey, a professor at North Dakota State University, tells the magazine.

Scientific forecasts say that countries in the world's wheat belts will start seeing hotter summers than anything on record. From now through 2050, wheat production could fall by 23% to 27%.

We got a glimpse of what could happen this year, when U.S. crops withered under the worst drought in 50 years. Corn production plunged, causing prices to skyrocket. Cattle herds were the smallest in 39 years and beef prices were at record levels. Fast-food chains raised prices, and experts said food could cost as much as 4% more next year.

The most sensitive type of wheat is durum, Hertsgaard writes. It doesn't thrive under too much or too little rain, and it needs cooler temperatures to grow.

Food companies are already taking notice. Barilla says it's creating new types of wheat that can handle extremely dry or wet weather. Farmers are testing new sustainable techniques.

It sounds a little shrill to decry the end of pasta, but there is some merit to this story. The world's weather patterns are changing, and that will impact crops. Pasta -- and bread, for that matter -- will see some changes ahead.

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Tags: Food
Dec 13, 2012 6:09PM
I hope this doesn't hurt beer production?
Dec 13, 2012 1:43PM
Both polar caps are almost melted, start planting wheat there.
Dec 13, 2012 9:19PM
Tomatoes love the heat.  Too bad we'll have all that tomatoe sauce and no pasta to put it over.
Dec 13, 2012 2:05PM
What a load of crap. Even if global warming is a reality, it just means the farms move farther north. Good for Canada.
Dec 13, 2012 7:22PM

Not True, North Pole is Melting BUT The South Pole is Getting Larger.

Because the Earth has Turned on it's Axes a Certain Degree.

Read that about Six Months. I was not the Brightest Star in School But I called it years ago.

Funny and I didn't even go to College, OH , Forgot don't teach that in College .

Just teach you Liberalism.

Dec 13, 2012 10:51PM
how? there is no global warming! but i bet fathead Al Gore is stocking up! he looks like he eats a ton a week! fathead!
Jan 14, 2013 10:29AM
To begin with, there is still debate whether global warming is happening or not. Many of the so-called “proofs’ of this phenomena have been rather weak. Yet, even if we accept that global warming is happening, its effects are also a rather controversial topic.

A very interesting point of view on this issue is presented by the Bjorn Lomborg in “The End of Pasta?” () . He sets a variety of arguments that undermine the presented seriousness of the situation. According to this article, wheat production has been rising, instead of falling over the last decades. Next, CO2, the substance in the atmosphere that has been taken as one of the main causes of GW, is actually a great fertilizer of crops. Finally, he claims that farmers will adapt one way or another.

Although “Global warming could hurt pasta industry” draws a rather unpleasant future for our diets, the situation might not be as tragic as it may seem. Farming technologies are extremely likely to be significantly up-graded in the next centuries. The possibilities of science have often proved to be underestimated, before great discoveries and creations have been made. That said, wheat will certainly be saved from extinction by the flexible scientists. 
Dec 13, 2012 6:40PM
Good. Very few of us should be eating wheat anyway. Most people are allergic or intolerant to it and don't even realize it because the symptoms can be very non-specific and attributed to many other things.
Dec 13, 2012 7:25PM
Oh wonderful.  The planet is dying, our industrialized civilization is crashing, and all we can care about, as always, is only ourselves, and our food.  There's nothing more Human than selfishness I suppose.  Dr. Sagan, it's worse than you thought...
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