Frankenwheatie-breeding the gluten out of wheat


A few weeks back, I came across an article online at

Farmers trying to breed gluten free wheat

Intrigued, I kept reading.

The latest trend in diets is eating gluten-free. Gluten-free foods are a nearly one billion dollar business in the United States. Now, the Kansas Wheat Commission is funding research to find out why some people cannot digest wheat and to develop new varieties of wheat.

Many people are unable to digest gluten, a protein found in wheat and a few other grains such as barley. The commission is spending money to map everything in the DNA of wheat and determine what parts of the DNA trigger the damaging response in people with celiac disease.

One goal of this research is to understand what causes celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Research has identified about 20 of the protein fragments in wheat that appear to cause the damage to the small intestine in celiac disease, but this is not all of them. Another goal is to breed a variety of wheat that does not contain these proteins.

A Kansas repository of different strains of wheat has many varieties of older forms of wheat that date back to the early 1900s. There are also wild relatives of wheat. These varieties may have lower amounts of the proteins to which celiac sufferers react.

Wow.  At first I thought-this is great!  No more getting glutened, no more agonizing over menus at restaurants, no more needing a PhD to read labels.  But then I realized just what this means.

While I think this is a great idea, it doesn’t seem to be very well thought out.  First, there is the expense for companies, restaurants and then consumers to convert products to this new wheat.

How will it behave in cooking and baking?  Will it be more like real wheat?  Or will it be more like gluten free flour?

Then there is the labeling nightmare.  Everything would have to be labelled, just as gluten free is now.  Considering how reluctant big corporations are to label even where your beef comes from, consider how difficult it would be to convince them to label products using new wheat.  That’s if the government even considers it an issue.  Imagine the lobbyists!

How will this wheat affect people 20 or 30 years from now?  What are the long term effects?  With all the hoopla over GMO (and I agree with it) how will this be accepted.

Gluten free packaged goods are already ridiculously expensive.  And it seems restaurants are already finding any excuse to raise prices for gluten free dishes.  Recently, PF Changs was blasted for charging more for supposed gluten free dishes, when in fact they were exactly the same as their regular menu counterparts.  Foods that are naturally gluten free are being extraneously labelled as gluten free and then prices are hiked up by food conglomerates.  What a field day they will have with this marketing ploy!

No matter how you slice the bread, this wheat will be GMO.  Trends are changing-major chains are shying away from GMO’s and additives.  How will this fit the profile?

While I admire the scientists behind gluten free wheat, perhaps it is time to go back to the lab and reconsider the possible monster they are going to loose on unsuspecting citizens.

Gentleman, grab your torches!!!





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