Consideration 27 - Carbohydrates as Antibacterial Agents

“In the past, scientists have concentrated their search for the source of its antibacterial properties on the proteins it contains. However, an interdisciplinary team of chemists and doctors at Vanderbilt University have discovered that some of the carbohydrates in human milk not only possess antibacterial properties of their own but also enhance the effectiveness of the antibacterial proteins also present.

“This is the first example of generalized, antimicrobial activity on the part of the carbohydrates in human milk,” said Assistant Professor of Chemistry Steven Townsend, who directed the study. “One of the remarkable properties of these compounds is that they are clearly non-toxic, unlike most antibiotics.”


My crop of wheat.

This letter was published in the Western Producer, a newspaper servicing Canadian farmers. It changed farmer’s view of themselves as climate change culprits to climate change heroes.

Letters to the Editor

How much CO2 does Canadian wheat remove from the atmosphere?

Let’s do the math. The molecular formula for starch and cellulose is C6 H10 O5. The molecular weight of carbon is 12, the molecular weight of hydrogen is 1, and the molecular weight of oxygen is 16. Thus for C, 6 X 12 = 72, for hydrogen 10X 1 = 10, for oxygen 5 X16 = 80. The total weight of this molecule is 162. The percentage of carbon in this molecule is 44.4%.

The molecular for carbon dioxide is CO2. Thus for C 1 X 12 = 12; for O, 2 X 16 =32. The total weight of this molecule is 44. The percentage of carbon in this molecule is 27.2%.

For plants to produce a tonne of starch or cellulose they would have to source 888 kgs of carbon. Farmers do not fertilize with carbon or carbon dioxide. They get this carbon from the air in the form of carbon dioxide. To get 888 kgs of carbon from the air would require [44.4 divided by 27.2 equals 1.63] 2000 X 1.63 = 3264.7kgs of CO2.

A fat molecule of C55 H98 O6 would be 77% carbon requiring 1545 kgs of C from the air to produce a tone of fat. This would require 2.83 X 2000 equals 5661 kgs of C02 from the air.

If Canadian farmers produced 24 million tonnes of wheat they have produced 24,000,000 – 2,880,000 [of moisture] = 21,120,000 tonnes of starch, cellulose, fat and protein. Protein has significant quantities of carbon. 21,120,000 X 1.63 = 34,425,000 tonnes of CO2 from the air. A tone of CO2 consumption for every person in Canada produced by just one crop.

Wheat plants also have roots, stems and leaves which are also made of cellulose which is 44% carbon. This may double the amount of CO2 taken from the air. The carbon in these forms is released as CO2 when they breakdown.

Carbon has a cycle. Canadian farmers also produce canola, grass for beef, forage for dairy, grain for eggs and chicken, barley for beer, apples, vegetables, race horses and other products. Canadian farmers are taking 100,000,000 tonnes of CO2 from the air.

The carbon that we consume in the form of wheat gets released back into atmosphere in the CO2 that we exhale.

Carbon has a cycle, a concept that does not figure largely in those that fear climate change.

Some have remarked about the carbon loss when the prairie soils were broken up. A nitrogen deficient, root bound, crop of prairie sod will not consume nearly the quantity of CO2 that a well managed crop of wheat will.

Ice ages come and go. It is folly to expect the climate to stay the same.