by Marion Nestle

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Aug 17 2021

Splendid news! USDA updates Thrifty Food Plan and SNAP benefits

Yesterday, the USDA issued a press release: USDA Modernizes the Thrifty Food Plan, Updates SNAP Benefits

WASHINGTON, August 16, 2021 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released a re-evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, used to calculate Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

This is a miracle, an event long sought by anti-hunger advocates.

The Thrifty Food Plan is supposed to be “the cost of groceries needed to provide a healthy, budget-conscious diet for a family of four.”

  • It is the basis for establishing SNAP benefits.
  • It was created in 1962.
  • All subsequent updates (until now) only adjusted for inflation but were otherwise required to be cost-neutral.

No wonder SNAP benefits were so inadequate.

Hope for change came with the 2018 Farm Bill.

In January, President Biden issued an Executive Order to review the Thrifty Food Plan.  USDA moved quickly on this in order to increase pandemic benefits permanently.

In its re-evaluation, USDA did as directed by Congress.  It based its report on current food prices, food composition data, consumption patterns, and dietary guidance.

The New York Times has a graphic displaying these changes in greater detail, as well as the effects of these changes on benefits.

This may not seem like much of a difference, but it should help.

No surprise, some members of Congress have objected to the increased expenditures, estimated to amount to $20 billion a year.

SNAP expenditures have always been contentious.   But for now, those who need help will be getting a bit more.

Additional Resources

  • What is the TFP? (Blog)
  • The Thrifty Food Plan and SNAP Benefits (Website)
  • The TFP Re-Evaluation Process (Infographic)
  • Changes in Benefits by State (Tables)
  • TFP Listening Sessions (Summary) (Blog)
  • SNAP Participants’ Barriers to Healthy Eating (Infographic)
  • Barriers that Constrain the Adequacy of SNAP Allotments (Report)
  • SNAP FY 2022 Cost-of-Living Adjustments (Memo)
Aug 16 2021

Least credible ad of the week: “Beefing Up Sustainability”


My colleague, Lisa Young, forwarded this ad to me from the weekend’s Wall Street Journal.

In case it’s too small for you to read, the ad makes some eyebrow-raising points:

  • “If all U.S. livestock were eliminated and every American followed a vegan diet, greenhouse gas emissions 0would only be reduced by 2%, or 0.36% globally.”
  • “Plus, cattle play an important role in protecting and enhancing our ecosystems by increasing carbon storage, improving soil health, mitigating wildfires, and providing habitat for wildlife.”
  • “We all play a role in a more sustainable future, but eliminating beef is not the answer.”

This, in case it is not instantaneously obvious, is part of the beef industry’s well documented effort to fight concerns about the well documented role of beef production in climate change.

The ad is paid for by the Beef Checkoff, one of the USDA-sponsored marketing and promotion programs funded by what is essentially a tax—the “checkoff”—on producers.  I recently wrote about how the Beef Checkoff funds research in this industry’s interest.

The ad cites research studies supporting its statements, but these are cherry-picked.

Estimates of the percent of greenhouse gases contributed by lifestock production vary, but the most widely accepted range from 14% to 18%.  Beef accounts for at least 10%.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, for example, says:

Total emissions from global livestock: 7.1 Gigatonnes of Co2-equiv per year, representing 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions…Cattle (raised for both beef and milk, as well as for inedible outputs like manure and draft power) are the animal species responsible for the most emissions, representing about 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions…feed production and processing (this includes land use change) and enteric fermentation from ruminants are the two main sources of emissions, representing 45 and 39 percent of total emissions, respectively.

The New York Times describes foods that have the largest  impact on climate change.

Meat and dairy, particularly from cows, have an outsize impact, with livestock accounting for around 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases each year. That’s roughly the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined in the world today.

In general, beef and lamb have the biggest climate footprint per gram of protein, while plant-based foods tend to have the smallest impact. Pork and chicken are somewhere in the middle.

A study published in Science calculated the average greenhouse gas emissions associated with different foods.  The New York Times summarizes its results:

Beef production creates emissions of methane as well as carbon dioxide from multiple sources: feed production, cow burps, manure production, etc.

Beef production that involves grazing on grasslands could meet sustainability goals, but beef cattle raised in feedlots cannot.

There are plenty of environmental reasons for eating less beef, and these are on top of health reasons.

The Beef Checkoff ad does not tell the whole story, alas.

Addition

Lisa reminds me that the cost of a full-page color ad in the Wall Street Journal runs around $200,000.

Aug 13 2021

Weekend reading: A call to the UN Food Systems Summit: Ultra-processed foods

I am a co-author on a paper published recently by BMJ Global Health 2021;6:e006885.  The need to reshape global food processing: a call to the United Nations Food Systems Summit.  Authors: Carlos Augusto Monteiro, Mark Lawrence, Christopher Millett, Marion Nestle, Barry M Popkin, Gyorgy Scrinis, Boyd Swinburn.

Because this paper is open access, I reproduce its text below.  The link is to the pdf.

Summary box

  • In the modern, globalised food system, useful types of industrial food processing that preserve foods, enhance their sensory properties and make their culinary preparation easier and more diverse, have been and are being replaced by food ultra-processing.

  • The main purpose of food ultra-processing is to increase profits by creating hyperpalatable and convenient food products that are grossly inferior imitations of minimally processed foods and freshly prepared dishes and meals.

  • In the last decades, obesity, type 2 diabetes and related diseases have become global epidemics, leading the health systems of many countries to or beyond breaking point.

  • Taken together, the totality of evidence summarised here shows beyond reasonable doubt that increased consumption of ultra-processed foods is a major contributor to the pandemic of obesity, type 2 diabetes and related diseases.

  • The 2021 UN Food System has a unique opportunity to urge countries to implement policy interventions required to reduce ultra-processed food production, distribution and consumption, while simultaneously making fresh or minimally processed foods more available, accessible and affordable.

Introduction

The UN Food Systems Summit is taking place later this year at a crucial time. Food systems are manifestly failing to enhance human health, social equity or environmental protection. One symptom is the pandemic of obesity and related non-communicable diseases with their vast consequences. As we show here, one of the main drivers of this pandemic is the transformation in food processing. In the modern, globalised food system, useful types of food processing that preserve foods, enhance their sensory properties and make their culinary preparation easier and more diverse, have been and are being replaced by deleterious types of processing whose main purpose is to increase profits by creating hyperpalatable and convenient products that are grossly inferior imitations of minimally processed foods and freshly prepared dishes and meals. The Summit has a unique opportunity to confront this calamitous change, and to recommend effective policies and actions to UN agencies and member states.

Processing and industry

The key issue here is the nature, purpose and extent of food processing. It is not processing as such. General criticism of food processing is too unspecific to be helpful. Most foods are processed in some way, and culinary preparations of fresh foods are usually made using processed ingredients. Some types of food processing contribute to healthful diets, but others do the opposite.1

At one extreme are minimal processes which mostly preserve or enhance whole foods, such as drying grains, pulses and nuts, grinding grains into flour and pasta, chilling or freezing fruits and vegetables, pasteurising milk and fermenting milk into yoghurt.

At the other extreme are industrial processes that convert food commodities such as wheat, soy, corn, oils and sugar, into chemically or physically transformed food substances, formulated with various classes of additives into generally cheap to make, long duration substitutes to minimally processed foods and freshly prepared dishes and meals. The result is brand-named sugary, fatty and/or salty food and drink products which typically contain little or no whole food, are designed to be ready-to-consume anytime, anywhere and are highly attractive to the senses or even quasi-addictive. These products, including sweet and flavoured drinks, sweet or savoury snacks, reconstituted meat products and shelf-stable or frozen ready meals and desserts, are identified as ultra-processed foods.2

Criticisms of the food industry as a whole are also a mistake. Most of the very many millions of food farming, growing, rearing, making, distributing, selling and catering businesses throughout the world, notably in Asia, Africa and Latin America, deal solely or largely in fresh and minimally processed foods. These businesses and the foods they produce need to be encouraged, defended and supported.

By contrast, ultra-processed foods are mostly enabled, produced and sold by a small number of transnational corporations, some of whose turnovers exceed the revenues of many countries and make annual profits of US$ billions.3 These corporations use their power to formulate, mass manufacture, distribute and aggressively market their products worldwide.4

These corporations shape scientific findings by funding in-house and university-based research, so as to defend and promote ultra-processed foods.5 They also exercise political power by intensive lobbying, donations and sponsorships, and until now have dissuaded most governments from adequately regulating their products and practices.6

Time-series food sales data indicate the explosive growth in manufacturing and consumption of ultra-processed foods worldwide.7 National dietary surveys show that ultra-processed foods already make up 50% or more of total dietary energy intake8 in high-income countries, with even higher consumption among children and adolescents.9 In middle-income countries, they now represent between 15% and 30% of total energy intake8 but sales of ultra-processed foods are increasing fastest in these countries.10

The pandemic of obesity and related diseases and its link with ultra-processing

According to WHO, worldwide prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled since the mid-1970s, and now over 650 million adults are obese, and 1.9 billion adults and over 370 million children and adolescents are overweight or obese (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight). No country has yet reversed these increases. Closely driven by the increase in obesity is a doubling of worldwide type 2 diabetes prevalence since 1980, now affecting about 420 million people (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes). Obesity, type 2 diabetes and related non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and some common cancers, have become pandemics. Pre-COVID-19, health systems in most countries did not have the capacity to effectively treat diet-influenced diseases. Now, many health systems are at or beyond breaking point struggling with COVID-19, the severity of which is significantly higher in people with obesity and related diseases.

Evidence of the general healthfulness of dietary patterns based on fresh and minimally processed foods and culinary preparations, and their protection against all forms of malnutrition, ‘is noteworthy for its breadth, depth, diversity of methods, and consistency of findings’.11

But only in the last decade, with the advent of the NOVA food classification system that distinguishes ultra-processed foods from minimally processed or processed foods,1 has the link between changes in types of food processing and the pandemic of obesity and related diseases been revealed. Evidence here includes:

  • Three meta-analyses of findings from epidemiological studies, including large, long-duration, carefully conducted cohort studies, show dose-response associations between consumption of ultra-processed foods and obesity, abdominal obesity, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidaemias, metabolic syndrome, depression, cardio and cerebrovascular diseases and all-cause mortality.12–14

  • Analysis of national dietary or food purchase surveys in middle-income or high-income countries shows that the higher the dietary share of ultra-processed foods, the higher the obesogenic dietary nutrient profiles. These are characterised by higher energy density, free sugars, unhealthy fats and sodium, and lower protein and dietary fibre.8

  • Epidemiological and experimental studies indicate that ultra-processed foods may increase risks for obesity and related diseases in other ways beyond their nutritional composition. These include structural and physical properties that blunt satiety signalling, organoleptic characteristics associated with higher energy intake rate, neo-formed substances and migrated packaging materials that are endocrine disruptors, additives that promote pro-inflammatory microbiome, and reduced thermic effect that decreases total energy expenditures.12–14

  • A randomised controlled cross-over trial shows that consuming a high ultra-processed diet causes a highly significant increase in ad libitum calorie intake and consequent weight gain. Over a 2-week period, 20 young adults following a diet with 83% of energy from ultra-processed foods consumed approximately 500 more kcal per day than when they followed a diet with no ultra-processed foods. Participants gained 0.9 kg at the end of the 2 weeks with the ultra-processed diet and lost 0.9 kg at the end of the non ultra-processed diet, mostly of body fat.15

  • A longitudinal ecological study of 80 countries from 2002 to 2016 shows a direct association between changes in annual per capita volume sales of ultra-processed foods and corresponding changes in population adult body mass index.16

Taken together, the totality of evidence summarised here shows beyond reasonable doubt that increased consumption of ultra-processed foods is a major contributor to the pandemic of obesity and related diseases. There is also mounting evidence of the harmful effects of the ultra-processed food industry on the planet, through its global demand for cheap ingredients that destroy forests and savannah, its displacement of sustainable farming, and its resource-intensive manufacturing and packaging.17

Policy responses

To begin with, the UN Food Systems Summit should urge international and national health and food and nutrition authorities to review their dietary guidelines to emphasise preference for fresh or minimally processed foods and avoidance of ultra-processed foods, in line with guidelines developed, for example, by the WHO/Pan American Health Organization,18 and issued in several Latino-American countries, and now also in France, Belgium, and Israel.

At the same time, national governments should be urged to use fiscal measures, marketing regulations, bold mandatory front-of-pack labelling schemes and food procurement policies, all designed to promote the production, accessibility and consumption of a rich variety of fresh or minimally processed foods, and to discourage the production, distribution and consumption of ultra-processed foods, as now done in several countries.19

Current food and nutrition policies are mostly intended to encourage food manufacturers to reformulate their products by reducing the use of salt, sugar or unhealthy fats. There is a role for strong regulations that effectively limit the levels of these components, but reformulation alone will not turn ultra-processed products into healthy foods,20 as in effect recently acknowledged in one internal document from one leading ultra-processed food corporation – “some of our categories and products will never be ‘healthy’ no matter how much we renovate” (https://www.ft.com/content/4c98d410-38b1-4be8-95b2-d029e054f492). Policies should instead stimulate the entire manufacturing industry to maintain, develop or improve processing methods that prolong the duration of whole foods, enhance their sensory properties and make their culinary preparation easier and more diverse. Ultra-processed foods should be replaced by processed foods with limited levels or absence of added salt, sugar or unhealthy fats or, preferably, by minimally processed foods.20

Conclusions

Food systems are failing. This is most clearly shown by what are now the pandemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes, of which ultra-processed food is a main contributor. The UN Food Systems Summit should urge member states to implement multiple policy interventions to reduce ultra-processed food production, distribution and consumption, while simultaneously making fresh or minimally processed foods more available, accessible and affordable.

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

Ethics statements

Acknowledgments

This paper expands a one-page submission made by the authors to the UN Food Systems Summit within Solution Cluster 2.2.1 (food environment).

References

 

Footnotes

  • Twitter @CMonteiro_USP

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the ideas presented in the manuscript. CAM wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to redrafting and editing.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

Aug 12 2021

Cocoa and chocolate in the food news

In talking about cocoa and chocolate, it’s a quick move from candy to politics.

New ways to treat yourself on World Chocolate Day July 7: “While we usually think of chocolate as a sweet treat, many cultures and cuisines use chocolate to boost the flavour profiles of their main dishes.”  Suggestions: (1) Mix it into your chilli con carne, (2) Use it as a marinade for meat, (3) Dip your bacon in it, (4) Add it to your Bolognese, (5) Turn it into pasta.  [Comment: I don’t think so].

‘You, the whites, are eating cocoa. You bring the price … you have to give us a chance to sell it at the price that we want’:  ‘I am a cocoa farmer’ is the first in an occasional series by Dr Kristy Leissle, scholar of the cocoa and chocolate industries…Over time, the series will illustrate both the diversity of people who farm cocoa, and the similarities of their circumstances. Read more

Rise in US confectionery sales boosts Fairtrade payments to cocoa farmers: People are paying more attention than ever to the conditions behind the products they buy as a way to make a difference in the world, according to new research findings released by GlobeScan and Fairtrade International…. Read more

Mondelēz and Fairtrade Foundation offer financial support to female cocoa farmersThe new ‘Cadbury Farmer Resilience Fund’ designed to protect cocoa farmer livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic is providing grants that will empower thousands of women farmers to start small businesses and earn a decent living…. Read more

Mars Wrigley to meet industry cocoa officials to discuss LID payments:  Barry Parkin, the company’s Chief Procurement and Sustainability Officer, is set to meet with members of the cocoa industry and the governments of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire this week to discuss the Living Income Differential (LID) and to underscore the company’s commitment to…full payment to farmers and control of supply to prevent cocoa from moving into protected areas. Read more

Can U.S. chocolate companies be liable for child-labor abuses in the global cocoa supply chain?  Chocolate brought Americans sweet respite in 2020—more than usual, according to recent research into pandemic purchasing. But the great irony in our chocolate indulgence is that it’s also a product borne out of great suffering…Within the next few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on a pair of consolidated cases known as Nestlé USA, Inc. v. John Doe and Cargill, Inc. v. John Doe. Nestlé is one of the world’s biggest chocolate manufacturers and Cargill, the world’s largest cocoa bean processor.

And here’s the ruling: US Supreme Court rules in favour of cocoa companies Nestle and Cargill in child slavery case:  The US Supreme Court rules that Nestlé USA and Cargill can’t be sued for child slavery on African farms from where they buy their cocoa…. Read more

Comment: The issues in chocolate just won’t go away: unfairly low prices to producers of the raw materials, harsh and unfair working conditions, child labor, and overall power imbalances as displayed in the Supreme Court decision.

Aug 11 2021

Feed the Truth on Corporate Transparency (or the lack, thereof)

Feed the Truth (FTT), an organization I’ve discussed previously and whose mission is to work “at the intersection of equity, democracy, and food justice to stop corporate control over the food we eat,” has just come out with the results of its new research on Big Food’s lack of transparency in political giving.

FTT attempted to discover the political spending levels of the ten largest food and agriculture corporations: ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Coca-Cola Company, JBS, Mars, Nestle, PepsiCo, Inc., Tyson Foods and Unilever.

FTT’s unsurprising conclusion: “despite the massive influence these corporations have on our health, economy, and the environment, there is very little publicly-available information about how they manipulate the political system to their advantage.”

This led FTT to develop The Food and Agriculture Corporate Transparency (FACT) Index.  This ranks the transparency of the corporations on a scale of zero to 100 on readily available disclosure of their spending on electioneering, lobbying, science, and charity.

Among the key findings:

Overall transparency scores:

  • Total: 2 (Bunge, Tyson) to 39 (Coca-Cola)
  • Electioneering: 0 (Bunge) to 20 (Mars).
  • Lobbying: 0 (Bunge, Tyson) to 9 (Coca-Cola)
  • Charity: 0 (Unilever, ADM) to 8 (Coca-Cola)
  • Science: 0 (PepsiCo, Mars, Unilever, JBS, Bunge) to 8 (Nestlé)

Coca-Cola ranks highest in part because of the transparency initiative it started in response to the furor over disclosure of its role in the Global Energy Balance Network.

I could have told FTT how hard it is to get information about food industry funding of science as well as all the other ways it uses funding to influence attitudes and policy.  I had my own version of these difficulties doing the research for Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

It’s great that FTT is bringing this problem up to date, and identifying what needs to be done about it.

Aug 10 2021

Good COVID news: it’s not transmitted by food or packaging

I am indebted to Food Safety News for this item: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) has issued a statement:  COVID-19 is not a food safety issue (see my previous posts on this).

  • Food does not spread the virus.
  • Food packaging does not spread the virus.

Highlights of the FAO’s conclusions:

  • Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food or on inanimate surfaces; they can only multiply in humans and certain animals. Once in the environment, viruses degrade and becomes less infectious.
  • It is important to note that, although the detection of virus or viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) remnants on foods and food packaging provides evidence of previous contamination and is not disputed, there is no confirmation of SARS-CoV-2, or any other respiratory illness-causing virus, being transmitted by food or food packaging and causing illnesses in people who touch the contaminated food products or packaging.
  • The virus responsible for COVID-19 is susceptible to most commonly used disinfectants and sanitizing agents used in the food processing environment. Standard cleaning and sanitizing procedures…should therefore be effective at disinfecting the food processing environment.

Well, at least that, and what a relief.

That still leaves us with these preventive measures: vaccinate, mask up, and avoid unmasked crowds.

Aug 9 2021

Industry-sponsored study of the week: Animal foods vs. plant-based substitutes

Thanks to Frank Lindner for sending this study.  He is a campaigner for foodwatch Nederland, which among other campaigns, runs Stop the sale of science for better transparency in science.

He says this Tweet made him curious:

He followed up and found the study: The place of animal products in a sustainable diet.  Authors: Stephen Peters, Jolande Valkenburg, Thom Huppertz, Luuk Blom, Lionel van Est. Norwegian Journal of Nutrition, Nr. 2 – June 2021.

The study begins with this premise:

Replacing animal-based foods with plant-based foods does not necessarily lower the diets [sic] carbon footprint.

Why?

In an average Dutch person’s diet, animal products are an important source of protein, minerals and vitamins…Animal products contribute significantly to the intake of important nutrients, such as high-quality protein, vitamins A, B2 and B12, calcium, magnesium, zinc and (in the case of meat) heme iron. These nutrients are not naturally, or often, found in plant products. Omitting animal products from the diet therefore can have major consequences for nutrient intake.

Lindner wrote that “I read the article and my jaw fell wide open at the very end….”

Funding: The research has been sponsored by the Dutch Dairy Association.

Conflicts of interest: Dr. Peters is a employed by the Dutch Dairy Association as manager of dairy health and sustainability. Dr. Huppertz is employed by FrieslandCampina, The Netherlands and is a professor of Dairy Science at Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Victoria University, Australia and Editor-in-Chief of International Dairy Journal. Dr. Bloom and Dr. van Est are the founders of Nutrisoft. A (commercial) company that combines the knowledge of nutrition and ICT.

Comment: FrieslandCampina is a large dairy cooperative operating in 38 countries and employing nearly 24,000 people.   It sponsors research at Wageningen University.

Milk and dairy may be at the heart of what we do, but at FrieslandCampina, we make more than just cheese and yogurt. We also produce dairy nutrition for specific groups of consumers, such as toddlers or adults with specific requirements.

Lindner was surprised by the disclosures and said “At least they are open and honest about it (they don’t even bother to hide it).”  He should not be surprised.  Industry-funded studies almost always produce results favorable to the sponsors’ interests.  That is one reason why journals require authors to disclose financial relationships with sponsors.

Here, the interests are obvious.  It is very much in the economic interests of dairy companies to demonstrate the nutritional superiority of dairy products over plant-based alternatives.

Reference: For a summary of research on the “funding effect”—the observations that research sponsored by food companies almost invariably produces results favorable to the sponsor’s interests and that recipients of industry funding typically did not intend to be influenced and do not recognize the influence—see my book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

Aug 6 2021

Weekend reading: Technically Food

Larissa Zimberoff.  Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat.  Abrams Press, 2021.

This is Zimberoff’s account of her personal conversations, meetings, visits, and observations of the people and venture capitalists behind today’s versions of techno-foods constructed from algae, fungi, peas, plants, and cell cultures.

She comes at these foods from a skeptical standpoint, but gamely tastes everything, judging some of the products delicious despite concerns about their greater meaning for health, the environment, and humanity.

Almost everyone she meets in this business is mission-driven, convinced that their products will help feed the world’s growing population at less cost to health and the environment.

But, as she puts it, “The tension of my health being tied to capitalistic companies that want to make a profit is growing” (p. 3).  Mine too, even after reading her book.

One concern is lack of transparency.  Nobody she met wanted to tell her what’s in the products they are producing or give details on how they are made.

Zimberoff likes some of what she sees, but not all.  She finishes up her discussion with a call for continued skepticism: “Like me, think before you eat.  Don’t believe the hype” (p. 190).

She ends the book in an odd way.  She asked a bunch of people to speculate on what we will all be eating in 20 years.  I was one of the people who commented, and I wish I had been given the opportunity to read my section before it got printed: some of it seems incoherent and I would have appreciated the chance to edit it.  [I just checked, which I should have done earlier.  I was given that opportunity and OK’d it.  My bad.  Culpa mea].

More careful editing would have helped throughout.  For example, I was startled to read this statement about the effects of climate change on algae:

This increase in CO2 leads to a rise in pH levels called ocean acidification, which can harm many creatures in the water.  Algae, on the other hand, may benefit from increased levels, and there are studies looking into whether growing seaweed can slow this rise in pH levels  (p. 10).

Oops.  Rising CO2 levels reduce pH.   Lower pH levels are acidic.  Algae do better at neutral or lower pH levels.