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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Comments & Feedback...

  1. aerobic1

    Too darn bad for the GFF. If “Well, the farmers did that so they could see over the tops of the fields!” was the best shot they took, then they lost. Bread sales are down by 100% at our house.

  2. “Well, the farmers did that so they could see over the tops of the fields!” HA! That falls into the category of saying ANYTHING just to avoid the appearance of ignorance while inadvertently providing the evidence of actual ignorance! It’s taken me long years of hard experience to learn not to go around pulling any old thing out of my butt just to be saying something in order to appear intelligent. Ok, wait, does this comment fall into that trap?? Now I’m confused again…

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, that’s precisely what it was. That, of course, seems to be the modus operandi of the industry.

  3. Nice! our toaster is put WAY back in the pantry shelf and no longer on the counter….
    and the bread knife hasn’t been used in over a year (and it’s a good one – $95 Wustoff! hahaha)

  4. Pam

    I was talking with a co-worker yesterday (bad me, we were supposed to be listening to a conference call) and we were talking about wheat free living – I’m going to send her a note to look at this post because she was shocked at what little I was able to tell her from my reading and experience (a whole four days wheat free so far). I was trying to explain that the wheat wasn’t GMOed but heavily bred and inbred. So it appears that there may be another convert out there and this post will help!

  5. Janet

    I offered to make a sandwich for my husband last night to have with our homemade veg soup–but gosh darn, no bread in the house and hubby didn’t seem to mind. (I am drawing him into wheat free by my excellent MEAT dishes) plus the fact I just don’t buy the toxic stuff anymore. “see over the tops of the fields”–BWHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. That’s the lamest debate point I have ever heard. You won, Dr. Davis.

    • Dr. Davis

      I had to stifle my laugh, Janet, when he said that.

      It was one of those “He didn’t REALLY say that, did he?” moments.

    • You gotta test out Dr. Davis’s Muffin in a Minute recipe:
      1/4 cup ground flax
      1/2 teaspoon baking powder
      1 teaspoon cinnamon
      1 teaspoon sweetener I use Xylitol
      1 egg
      1 teaspoon butter (or less)

      Stir it all up in a coffee mug, pop it in the microwave for 1 minute (a bit longer if adding berries etc.) Delicious! I slice it and add cream cheese.

      For some reason your recipe section is not listed anymore???

      You can check out how it looks and how I’ve adapted it to make a nice slice of “bread” at my facebook page:

  6. Did your jaw hit the floor when he said that? Mine would have. And then I’d have laughed my head off. You are a paragon of self control. ;)

  7. Paul

    Since their livelyhood depends, the grain growers, council, foundation, etc have to say something-no matter how ridiculous! What they say is not likely to convert any “NO GRAIN EATERS”- it just gives us a good laugh. On the other hand, what I say doesn’t seem to stop many from eating grains either, they think I’m nuts.

    • Dr. Davis

      Yup, Paul. And they are paid to maintain the status quo. They also hire PR people to help sustain this message. I’m seeing it more and more in the media: paid placements on TV, radio, magazines.

  8. Boundless

    As I said on an older thread: Their chanting of this “it’s not GE” mantra speaks of panic.

    If “traditionally modified” wheat is as poisonous as it appears to be, what does that say about crops that really are GE? (which includes the upcoming RoundUp-Ready so-called wheat).

    They are scared to death of the public reaction to future GE products if the public comes to realize that “traditional” products can also be genetic monsters.

  9. I gave a presentation to senior med school students at University of Hawaii Medical School for their Complimentary Alternative Medicine elective class last week.

    I was there to talk about my massage therapy practice of which I discussed Manual therapies, Kinesio Tape, and Nutrition of which Wheat Belly was the primary focus.

    A number of the students perceived Wheat Belly to be “just another diet” so they are not quite ready to consider how important nutrition is and the consequential effects of food being modified genetically by man.

    The professor was very impressed and very grateful for the share and invited me back to speak again next month in April.

    I’m looking forward to continuing to spread the word!

    Check out the Wheat Free Pizza I made last week with my mom and my sister’s boyfriend Marc:

    • Yeah, it’s really odd how most people can add 1 plus 1 but are not trained to connect the dots, many can’t see the forest from the trees, and some can’t get a clue even when it’s slapping them in the face, like this guy’s comment the other day over on Mark’s Daily Apple article about Fasting and Cancer that had me LMAO:

      “There’s another quote attributed to Prophet Mohammed: “Fast and be healthy”.
      I have been suffering from psoriasis since the age of 17 (I am now 43). Every Ramadhan when I fast for about 15 hours a day for 30 days straight, my skin clears up remarkably.
      Waleed wrote on March 20th, 2012”

      And the reply to that:
      “There’s a newer quote from the prophet Dr. William Davis from wheatbellyblog dot com: “The modern mutant wheat that only grows 2 foot tall ain’t your grandmother’s wheat.”

      And from prophet conrack: “Get a clue, drop wheat & grains totally & permanently from your diet and be done with your suffering from psoriasis once and for all.”
      conrack wrote on March 20th, 2012”

      • Dr. Davis

        That’s great, Cancer!

        It truly is remarkable how close many people have come to stumbling on the answer, yet failed to pinpoint the real culprit.

    • Dr. Davis

      Excellent, Jonathan! If you change the thinking of just a few of these students, they will in turn pass it on to their future patients–if they don’t succumb to the barrage of marketing saying the opposite.

      Very nice job on the pizza! I’m going to post to the Facebook page for Wheat Belly.

  10. Marv

    This is SO not “just another diet”. We, the Wheat-Free-Army, are not mindless followers of Guru Davis; a good scan of this blog’s comments shows a high level of intelligence and thoughtfullness. The Amazon reviews are written by plain folks experiencing life-changng results.

    Yeah, I’d be scared too, Big Grain, now that your secret is out.

    Lead on General Davis! You have the finest Army I’ve ever seen.

  11. Great information BUT you are missing a KEY ingredient to the entire Wheat debate. Homo Sapiens have been eating wheat that has been FERMENTED for thousands of years and it is a fundamental reason we have ben able to build what is called “civilization.” In ADDITION to using heirloom grains which are naturally lower in gluten than the modern varieties one MUST ferment or naturally leaven all wheat with a “mother starter” this enables the phytic acids and glutens to be “predigested” by the multiplicity of microorganisms found in the mother starter. This mother is made strictly from heirloom wheat and water and the microorganisms found in the starter actuarially come from us- our fingers and gums and breath- and so it is us that leavens the brewed slowly and then it is us that can eat this kind of bread and NOT get wheat belly and gluten intolerance and GET riboflavin, niacin, b vitamins., proteins and other vitamins and minerals that make naturally leavened organic breads healthy and digestible and a fantastic food source. We have had HUNDREDs of people in our 20 year career of making this kind of bread say that this is the only kind of bread they can eat and not have problems.
    So- if your using yeast and sweetener to make your bread rise it will cause dietary problems. If you start a mother culture and fire up your wood fired brick oven and then bake the bread with a nice chewy crust which will force you to chew and thereby add enzymes from your salivary glands you will not have such problems of which you speak. Plain and simple- your on the right track but your missing a key point. Naturally leaven and you can get the benefits of what grains – not just wheat- have to offer.

    • Dr. Davis

      Sorry, Gerard, but I believe you are dead wrong.

      The techniques you describe do not eliminate the undesirable components of wheat, just reduce them modestly. I would liken these techniques to putting a filter on a cigarette: Yeah, sure, it’s a bit better, but it ain’t good.

    • Paul

      Attempting to find ways to make wheat (and grains and legumes) digestible is like “Self-Flagellation”-what’s the point? There’s so much other natural foods that can be eaten “as is”, why go through the trouble?

  12. Lisa

    “Whole grains of 2012 are also not the whole grains of 1950, the 19th century, the Bible, or pre-biblical times. ”
    This is not the first time I’ve read this, but I know that when I did, everything clicked. I had never thought about it that way. I had always wondered how my Italian mother escaped the wrath of daily pasta and bread.

    The wheat free breads I make/buy are better than anything I ever got in a bakery. Have to admit to missing my grandma’s great hand made spaghetti and olive loaves, though. Good, but gluteny, times!! Ah, the 90s. ;)

  13. Nina Bolinder

    Dr. Davis,
    Have been wheat free for 1 month and low carbing as well. Thanks for your insite and wisdom with the WHEAT BELLY BOOK. Have a ? which I hope to get your input on.
    In my morning shake I add a scoop of VEGEGREENS by PROGRESSIVE. Part of the ingredients include….
    Barley Greens 750mg
    Wheat Grass 100mg
    Buckwheat 75mg
    Brown Rice800mg.
    I am hoping this IS NOT A PROBLEM for me as I like the added boost of my green powder.
    What’s your thoughts on this?
    I am feeling great and on the road to health and happiness thanks partly to your book.
    Nina B. [R.N.]

    • Dr. Davis

      Because we don’t really know what is in wheat grass in the way of gliadin, lectins, etc. I can’t say for absolutely certain whether it’s safe or not.

  14. Lynda

    I love the logic of the Wheat Industry. Let me check on this: If my son married an extraterrestrial and my grandkids married ET’s and my greatgrands married ET’s, would my great-greats be human? I guess they wouldn’t be GMO either.
    Keep up the good work, Dr. Davis. You have certainly done alot for me and my husband.

  15. source:
    Hi Dr. Davis what do you think about this article from 2005 about wheat is the most evil food and causes heart attacks?

    Factors Correlated to Heart Attack Risk (MI)
    Factor Correlation Score Significance
    Meat Consumption -28 none
    Dairy Consumption 6 none
    Rice Consumption -58 Strong Negative Correlation
    Wheat Consumption 67 Strong Positive Correlation
    Other Grain Consumption 39 Moderate Positive Correlation
    Green Vegetable Consumption 5 none
    Blood Cholesterol 4 none
    can you believe there is evidence of this all the way back in 2005 but somehow the public wasn’t informed.

    • Dr. Davis

      You wrote this in 2005? You were WAY ahead of the pack!

      I believe Denise Minger of RawFoodsSOS will be publishing a formal statistical reanalysis of Campbell’s raw data near future showing exactly this, too.

    • hitfan

      That was a great read. From the link you provided:

      “Rice eaters seem protected from heart attacks while wheat, corn and millet eaters are much more prone (the corn link is debatable). Meat, dairy and vegetable consumption play no obvious role. Blood cholesterol plays no role.”

      Of all the grains, I’ve noticed that I suffer the least adverse reactions when I eat rice. I’ve taken a “pox on all grains” attitude after I had a bad arthritic flareup when eating organic nachos a few weeks back.

      That doesn’t mean I’ll introduce rice regularly, but I think that on some occasions I will certainly indulge in eating it from time to time.

  16. Just ran across this particularly appropriate observation, from Slate dot com article “Those Three Little Words (“Honey, You’re Right”): Harville Hendrix on Being Wrong”

    Slate writer & interviewer Kathryn Schulz: “I’m interested in this idea that having your perspective challenged produces anxiety. That comports with something another therapist said to me, which is that our capacity to tolerate being wrong hinges on our capacity to tolerate emotion.”

    Harville Hendrix, author of ‘Getting the Love You Want’: “I think that’s right. To entertain the possibility that you’re wrong is to feel anxiety about your inner organization, as well as shame, embarrassment, and even guilt about the erroneous perspective. And shame and guilt are almost intolerable emotions. So in order not to experience that anxiety and shame and guilt, you become rigid in your perceptions.”

    Now I understand why some people, mostly family, friends & co workers, react so violently when we try to talk to them about wheat and high carb diets. Looks like you provoked a lot of shame and guilt in that PhD Professor and probably should have given him a hug, he’s obviously incapable of tolerating his emotions and so has problems admitting he’s wrong, probably due to a lack of love & nurturing in his childhood. Also looks like if you insist on hitting these people with facts and truth you’ll be provoking a lot of shame and guilt and will be giving a lot of hugs! Or not. Maybe just autographed copies of your book.

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, it must indeed provoke awful feelings of shame and embarassment to know that what you’ve been teaching and doing is not only ineffective, but has contributed in a large way to gaining weight, creating diabetes and a long collection of other diseases.

      How to backpedal from a career of mistakes?

  17. Bread sales are down 100% in our household as well. I was reading Wheat Belly and Caffeine Blues at the same time. I found it interesting that you could have substituted wheat for caffeine or caffeine for wheat between both books and not known shich book you were reading. The similarities are amaazing.

    On to the good stuff: Its been almost four weeks of good eating and I didn’t even bother weighing myself, I feel great, my wife feels great, my kids feel great. I’m sliming down at a fantastic rate.

    Many thanks Dr. Davis!

  18. roberto

    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

      Hi, Roberto–


      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.

  19. Sue Hoffman

    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.

  20. Damiel

    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.

  21. patricia king

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

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, they’re getting desperate, Kevin!

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

      • Boundless

        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.

  22. Patti

    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

      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 … ;)


    • Boundless

      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.

  23. David S.

    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!