Climate change is threatening your morning caffeine fix.
Marvin G Perez and Fabiana Batista
April 28, 2017, 4:00 AM EDT
While Washington debates whether climate change is a hoax or an imminent threat, the world coffee industry is not waiting for the American government to take action to protect its business.
Coffee crops are under siege from deforestation, abnormally high temperatures, a lack of precipitation, and disease. The global market is heading for its fourth straight year of deficit, according to estimates from Rabobank International. At the same time, global demand for the beloved beverage is expected to reach an all-time high this year, led by demand from younger American consumers. Production will need to increase at least 50 percent by the middle of this century to keep pace with the demand, says Conservation International, an environmental organization. To cope, the industry is rushing to develop plants that can adapt with the changing environment.
Land suitable to grow the arabica beans favored by Starbucks Corp. and other specialty roasters will be cut in half worldwide by 2050, according to the World Coffee Research institute, a group sponsored by the industry. In Brazil's Espirito Santo state, output has fallen precipitously, particularly for the robusta variety of coffee bean. In the last three years, the region has received just 50 percent of its average rainfall, while temperatures soared to 3 degrees Celsius above normal. "It was the worst drought in 80 years," Romario Gava Ferrao, a researcher at the state-run research institute, Incaper, told Bloomberg. Some farmers have moved to other regions or have invested in other crops such as pepper, he said.
Hugo Ramos, a meteorologist at Incaper, isn't sure if the warmer, dryer weather is a permanent change for the region. "We have to study more to understand what will happen in the next years." The situation has become so dire that the nation is considering importing lower-quality robusta beans from Vietnam in order to meet demand, an option that has met strong opposition from local farmers.
Leaf rust, a fungal disease that affects both arabica and robusta plants, is also devastating the industry. About 18.2 million bags of coffee worth about $2.5 billion were lost to the disease from 2011 to 2016, according to WCR. The loss put 1.7 million people out of work. A warmer planet means producers will be forced to contend with more frequent threats to their beans.
To avert a disastrous future without coffee, Christophe Montagnon, a geneticist at the WCR, is leading a global team of researchers in an effort to find existing plants that can survive in a changed climate. "Global warming means that the only places that will remain arable are colder or at higher altitudes," Montagnon said in a telephone interview from Lyon, France.
In a recent experiment, Montagnon's team took 30 plant varieties from 20 countries and placed them in a controlled environment in Laos, where they were subjected to temperatures as low as 2 degrees Celsius. The seven varieties that survived the cold snap will now be taken to other regions, from Brazil to Guatemala, to see if they can thrive in foreign soils and uncontrolled conditions. Eventually, the coffee plants deemed most resistant to both colder temperatures and leaf-rust will be selected for planting.
"We now have these varieties that are resistant to frost,” Montagnon said. The next step is to challenge those varieties in different environments, he said.
Finding coffee plants able to withstand leaf rust may be a bigger challenge. Recent research has shown that resistance is breaking down in some rust-resistant varieties originally developed from the 1950s to the '90s. The fungal disease remains common in some areas, particularly the Americas, where it primarily threatens the arabica beans sold by high-end roasters.
Still, Montagnon remains optimistic. "This is exciting,” he said.
With assistance from Brian K. Sullivan
Written by Honor Whiteman
Published: Thursday 27 April 2017
New research brings some good news for men who like a caffeine kick. Drinking more than three cups of Italian-style coffee daily could more than halve the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Drinking at least three cups of Italian-style coffee every day may halve men's risk of prostate cancer, say researchers.The findings come from an analysis of almost 7,000 men from Italy - a country where coffee drinking is a culture.
It is quite normal for Italians to start the day with a cappuccino, followed by a caffè macchiato or two at lunch, and an espresso in the evening. In fact, the average Italian consumes around 600 cups of coffee every year, and this number is on the rise.
It seems, then, that there is no better population in which to study the effects of coffee consumption on the risk of prostate cancer.
Study co-author Licia Iacoviello, head of the Molecular and Nutritional Epidemiology Laboratory at I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed in Italy, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the International Journal of Cancer.
Gaining a 'clearer view' of the link between coffee and prostate cancerProstate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States, after skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, around 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime.
While a number of studies have suggested that coffee consumption may help to lower the risk of prostate cancer, others have found the opposite.
For their study, Iacoviello and colleagues further investigated the link between coffee intake and prostate cancer risk by analyzing the data of 6,989 men from Italy, aged 50 years or older, who were part of the Moli-Sani Project.
"In recent years we have seen a number of international studies on this issue," says first study author George Pounis, of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed.
"But scientific evidence has been considered insufficient to draw conclusions. Moreover, in some cases results were contradictory. Our goal, therefore, was to increase knowledge in this field and to provide a clearer view."
As part of the study, participants were required to report their daily intake of Italian-style coffee using a food frequency questionnaire.
More than three cups of coffee daily lowered prostate cancer riskOver an average of 4 years of follow-up, around 100 new cases of prostate cancer were identified among the men.
The researchers found that men who consumed at least three cups of Italian-style coffee every day were at a 53 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer, compared with men who consumed fewer than three cups daily.
To confirm the anti-cancer effects of coffee, the team tested extracts of caffeinated and decaffeinated Italian-style coffee on prostate cancer cells in the laboratory.
They found that the caffeinated coffee extracts reduced the proliferation of cancer cells - that is, the ability to grow and divide - and decreased their ability to metastasize, or spread. These effects were almost non-existent with decaffeinated coffee extracts.
"The observations on cancer cells allow us to say that the beneficial effect observed among the 7,000 participants is most likely due to caffeine, rather than to the many other substances contained in coffee," notes study co-author Maria Benedetta Donati, also of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention.
However, the researchers point out that the study was conducted on an Italian population with a strong coffee culture, which is characterized not only by the amount of coffee that is consumed, but also by the way in which it is made.
"They prepare coffee [the] rigorously Italian way: high pressure, very high water temperature, and with no filters," says Iacoviello. "This method, different from those followed in other areas of the world, could lead to a higher concentration of bioactive substances."
"It will be very interesting, now, to explore this aspect. Coffee is an integral part of Italian lifestyle, which, we must remember, is not made just by individual foods, but also by the specific way they are prepared."
Learn why coffee drinkers might live longer.
Written by Honor Whiteman