In one of the odder discoveries related to climate change, researchers with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have found that rising carbon dioxide...

opium-poppiesIn one of the odder discoveries related to climate change, researchers with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have found that rising carbon dioxide levels are causing opium poppies to become more potent.

Scienceline, New York University’s environmental reporting programme, says researchers have found that poppies grown today produce twice as many alkaloids — chemical compounds such as morphine (which can be used to make heroin) — as they did in 1950. Based on those growth levels, scientists expect the morphine levels in poppies could triple by 2050 and increase by 4.5 times by 2090.

As carbon dioxide levels keep rising, we can’t expect plants across the board to become more packed with certain chemical compounds, though. Lewis Ziska, a researcher with the USDA’s Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory who conducted the poppy study, found in previous tests that tobacco plants produce less nicotine as carbon concentrations increase.

Such findings suggest a warming world will also be a more chaotic one for plants, which raises a host of possible problems for people as well. Wheat, for example, might produce more grains, Ziska said, while poppies and other plants such as poison ivy could become more potent.

Still other researchers have found similar plant chaos, with some plants growing taller and leggier — but less nutritious– in higher concentrations of carbon dioxide.

So are we looking at a future with more undernourished, but more overmedicated, people? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.


  • Trevor Carley

    May 5, 2010 #1 Author

    Yeah this sounds like a load of crap to me… Something plants NEED to survive increases, hurting the plants? That would be like saying going to a rainforest from a polluted city would be bad for your lungs because there’s too much oxygen.


  • Tom Dennen

    January 18, 2010 #2 Author

    Carbon dioxide is PLANT FOOD, dummies!


  • Thebes

    January 17, 2010 #3 Author

    During the 50’s many prominent scientists suggested RAISING the level of CO2 in the atmosphere to make plants MORE nutritious. Indeed, many exotics are grown in greenhouses (which hold in the gas because of their walls) with raised CO2. Cannibis is one example.

    I don’t see why raised CO2 would make anything more potent though. I suspect that the testing methods were different in the 50’s, this is the case with cannibis as has been shown many times- government scientists tested the stored samples after decades of aging, reducing their “past potency” while presenting their psuedoscience as fact.

    The REAL problem with opium in Afghanistan is that the President’s brother is the nation’s largest drug lord and enjoys the protection of our military occupation.


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