The Wheat Lobby Smokescreen

The Wheat Lobby has been busy.

The Grain Foods Foundation, the Whole Grain Council, and other lobby/trade groups for the wheat industry are in panic mode. After all, a recent 4.5% reduction in bread sales for the year were just reported. While 4.5% is not a big percentage, it is a percentage of a huge number. This is big. Food Business News comments:

According to SymphonyIRI Group (a Chicago-based market research firm), unit sales of fresh bread declined 4.5% in the 52 weeks ended Jan. 22 [2012] . . . The one-year volume decline likely was the steepest in the history of sliced bread. [Emphasis mine.]

So the Wheat Lobby and trade groups have been organizing behind several counterarguments to maintain the “healthy whole grain” franchise, including:

“Wheat is not genetically-modified.”
Dr. Glenn Gaesser of the Grain Foods Foundation recently offered this “counterargument” on a TV interview I did. This statement has also cropped up a number of times in various articles and reports that aim to counter the claims I am making, suggesting that it is part of a concerted, planned defense.

They are correct: Wheat is not genetically-modified. In the language of geneticists, “genetic modification” or genetic engineering refers to the use of gene-splicing technology to insert or remove a gene. While wheat has indeed been extensively genetically-modified in laboratory settings, no genetically-modified strain of wheat is on the open market. And I never said it was.

But that does not mean that the genetics of wheat have not been changed. Its genetics, in fact, have been extensively changed using techniques that include hybridization, repeating backcrossing (to winnow out specific characteristics like short height or seed head size), embryo rescue (to rescue otherwise fatal mutations), and chemical, gamma ray, and x-ray mutagenesis (induction of mutations, used for instance to create the popular Clearfield strain of wheat that is herbicide-resistant). These techniques, as any geneticist will tell you, are far less predictable, less controllable . . . far worse than the act of inserting or removing just one gene. But that is conveniently left out of the sound bites that come from the Wheat Lobby.

“Grains have been eaten by humans for thousands of years.”
Well, humans have been enslaved for thousands of years, children put to work and abused, the strong dominated the weak . . . but that doesn’t justify any of it.

Whole grains of 2012 are also not the whole grains of 1950, the 19th century, the Bible, or pre-biblical times. Modern wheat, in particular, is genetically distant from its predecessors, thanks to the extreme genetic changes (not genetic modification!) inflicted on wheat in the 1960s and 1970s in the name of increased yield-per-acre.

“Healthy whole grains have repeatedly been shown to reduce risk for diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer.”
That’s is true . . . if whole grains are compared to processed white flour products. It is guilty of the kind of flawed logic that dominates nutritional thinking:

If something bad for you is replaced by something less bad and there is an apparent health benefit, then a whole bunch of the less bad thing is good for you.

This flawed logic is used to justify replacing high-glycemic index foods with low-glycemic index foods (more properly called less-high glycemic index foods), hydrogenated fats with polyunsaturates.

If “healthy whole grains” are compared to no grains, i.e, no wheat, then dramatic turnarounds in health are witnessed. The 1% of people with celiac disease are not the exception; they are the “canaries in the coal mine” telling us that wheat is inappropriate for any human to consume . . . especially the semi-dwarf strains made worse by geneticists.

Surely the experts know all this!

Nope. They are, to an incredible degree, ignorant. I recently debated a PhD Professor of Nutrition at a major university, who was also Director of Research at a major agricultural corporation, who offered up the usual defenses of wheat, while accusing me of ignoring the evidence. So, when I informed him that the wheat of today is a high-yield, semi-dwarf variant that stands around 2-feet tall, with marked changes in its genetic code, he answered with . . . silence. After a bit of hemming and hawing, he finally blurted, “Well, the farmers did that so they could see over the tops of the fields!” Farmers, of course, did not introduce these changes to create the dwarf strain of wheat. In other words, the fact that modern wheat is the markedly altered product of genetics research was entirely new to this “expert.”

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62 Responses to The Wheat Lobby Smokescreen

  1. roberto says:

    dr. davis – roberto here. quick follow up on our original health results. her thyroid levels have dropped off & her doc is scratching her head! lol.
    continued fat/weight loss – easy come easy go!
    as per this present article & our discussion one must forsee the investment implications. IF the comsumption of processed wheat declines @ the 4% +/- rate this will effect the broad investment/manufacturing complex – specifically in north america.
    paradigm investment strategy upcoming so all the non wheat users are ahead of the curve.
    best regards to all the “cold wheat” non users………..roberto

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Hi, Roberto–

      Excellent!

      Yes, this movement is going to ripple across many companies and industries, just like the internet wiped out the need for travel agents. So it will go here, too.

  2. Sue Hoffman says:

    I have been wheat free since 2/22/12. I always thought I was a food addict. Now all of my cravings have stopped and I no long want to eat constantly. I only look at healthy food options. That is all I actually want and It feels so good. Thank you for your life saving research.

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  4. Damiel says:

    I find whole wheat only in the flour aisle. Everything else has gobs of other ingredients, some of which the manufacturers refuse to disclose. Why is einhorn flour 1000% higher priced than whole wheat flour (699 cents vs. 69 cents)? Are the yields only one tenth? Of the 10,000 varieties of wheat does anyone disclose the one they use in their product? What pesticides are used on wheat? I did not know that there was an effective fungicide for wheat rust. I am pleased to learn of all the good results from leaving harmful products alone.
    I favor using food I process myself.

  5. John says:

    is there a difference between einhorn wheat and ienkorn wheat?

  6. patricia king says:

    How do North American findings compare with European research on wheat grown outside the ‘Big western wheat complex’?

  7. Kevin says:

    Looks like Sex will have to sell wheat now, Got them really worried now Dr. Davis…….

    http://www.thestar.com/business/2013/02/01/canadian_wheat_board_defends_fencestraddling_cowgirl_ad.html

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Yes, they’re getting desperate, Kevin!

      Thanks for reminding me of this ad. I will repost for others to get a good laugh!

      • Boundless says:

        That story seems to have less to do with wheat per se than how it’s marketed. It seems that the Canadian Wheat Board lost their monopoly, and it trying to hang on to their former indentured farmers.

  8. Patti says:

    I’ve been doing a lot of research. Interviewing my elders and on the internet. So are you saying if we can get the emmer wheat(also known as farro) and the einhorn then if and when we do decide to make bread its the best there is? My uncles confirmed the family was healthier when we grew our wheat and ate less sugar. Europe is still growing these grains and a lot of organic farms here in america are now also. Plus the internet has awesome home economists that are jumping on the einhorn and emmer bandwagon!

    • James says:

      Hi Patti,

      When you say “It’s the best there is”, I would say “It’s the LEAST BAD there is”. Emmer, spelt, einkorn, kamut, etc, still contain the same things (not as modified and “frankenstein’ed” as in the modern wheat strain but) still affecting your health to some degree. I personally have not even tried to eat spelt, emmer or other ancient strains (which may actually be quite different today from the real original stuff – who knows ?). It would only bring me back to wheat. I used to consume big loafs of spelt bread from an organic bakery not far from home, so I can tell you that my visceral fat was not on the way down with that bread … ;)

      J.

    • Boundless says:

      Emmer has more gluten than modern wheat.

      Heirloom wheats are not human food. They have been messing up celiacs forever. Heirlooms may not have some of the novel toxins of modern techno-wheat, but (in addition to the gluten) they are still sky-high glycemic.

      Part of why we didn’t have as much trouble with wheat prior to 1960 was yield. Heirlooms are expensive because they hard to grow produce less. But if cost is no object, and you eat as much heirloom as you do triticum, the outcome may be only slightly less awful.

      > jumping on the einkorn and emmer bandwagon!

      The wheels are going to fall off that wagon. I wouldn’t buy a ticket to ride on it. Heirlooms are a temporary distraction on the road to health. We even bought some einkorn flour early on.

  9. David S. says:

    Is it just me, or does it seem that there are a lot more commercials on TV lately that are advertising some wheat-containing products? Pizza, Cheerios, Subway, cheseburgers, etc… Is it possible that the wheat lobby (grain foods foundation, wheat growers association, whatever) is behind this increase in these ads to keep people eating wheat?
    BTW, I love that commercial for Prilosec with the guy in front of a corn dog stand, encouraging the viewers to eat the foods they love (wheat, corn) and take Prilosec to avoid the heartburn, acid reflux, etc. I’ve got a better idea, pal. Save your money, and don’t eat the friggin’ corn dog!

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