Pollution and Crops

By Jill Moss

This is VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

The World Bank says air pollution is one of the worst environmental problems in large cities around the world. Air pollution causes breathing problems. It also threatens crop production in farm areas near huge cities.

The United Nations Environment Program says that air pollution reduces the amount of crops produced. It also reduces the nutrient level of crops. As a result, both the buyer and the seller of crops are hurt by air pollution.

The U-N says dirty air is a major source of metal in crops. These metals include lead, zinc and copper. These metals can build up to dangerously high levels in the parts of plants that people eat. The German Appropriate Technology Exchange, GATE, reports that eating these metals can cause developmental problems and low intelligence levels among children. Some kinds of cancers and kidney damage have also been linked to metals in crops.

The agricultural risks caused by dirty air have been linked to three major sources of pollution. They are chemicals released by vehicles, factories, and fossil fuels, such as oil or coal. GATE reports that some of these chemical pollutants reduce crop production by forty percent or more. For example, pollution has seriously affected the production of rice and wheat in Lahore, Pakistan. And pollution has affected the production of some vegetables grown near Varanasi, India.

GATE says air pollution can also reduce the nutritional quality of crops. It can even cause observable damage to the part of the crop that is eaten. This increases the chances of insects or diseases after the crop is harvested. The GATE report says air pollution also reduces the length of time that crops can be sold before they are no longer fresh.

GATE says officials in developing countries need to approve policies to reduce air pollution. They should set restrictions on the amount of pollution released into the air. Officials also should identify the level at which metal in crops becomes dangerous. And they should provide information about health risks from polluted crops. GATE says this information will help people decide what kinds of crops they want to buy.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by Jill Moss.

Voice of America Special English