The wheat and grain lobby is at it again, using their increasingly supportive medium, The Huffington Post:
(It is odd that Huffington Post has, in effect, become the sounding board for the wheat and grain industry to post it’s propaganda pieces, even awful and flawed analyses like this article. I smell a rat.)
From the article:
“‘There’s no such thing as Frankenwheat.’
“Chibbar’s research involved studying wheat varieties that have been planted in North America since the 19th century. They were grown and analyzed in test plots that have been maintained since 1989. The original intent was to catalogue improvements made in yield and time to harvest since the 1860s when homesteaders planted Ontario-originated Red Fife on their newly broken land.
“But the focus shifted when Chibbar began to notice claims from health advisers that new wheat varieties contained high protein levels and different kinds of starch that were contributing to gluten intolerance.
“‘A lot of questions started to arise that the modern wheat is very different.’
“Chibbar decided to find out if protein levels really have increased.
“The answer was yes. Protein levels have increased by about 0.01 per cent a year.
“‘That’s one per cent in a 100 years,’ said Chibbar. ‘The whole thing about protein levels having significantly increased, and that’s why we’re seeing the negative effects of wheat, that did not stand out.'”
Read the Wheat Belly books, read the discussions here on the Wheat Belly Blog or the Wheat Belly Facebook page, or listen to the hundreds of media interviews I have given, and you will NEVER hear me argue that the protein or carbohydrate content of wheat has changed. In fact, there are instances in which the protein content of modern wheat strains has dropped, not increased. While modern wheat tends to contain around 14 to 18% protein, for example, some strains of emmer wheat can contain up to 28% protein. And I know of no data showing that the carbohydrate content of wheat has increased or decreased, and I never claimed that it has.
But there is no argument that wheat has been changed. Chibbar (the wheat researcher) even concedes this point: “Chibbar said the mix of the individual proteins in the gluten may have changed slightly.”
The changes are more than slight, however, and they involve more than the thousands of genes coding for gluten. Just look at a wheat field and you will see the obvious changes: it stands 18 inches tall, not 5 feet; the stalk is thicker; the seeds are larger, the seed head longer. Just those few changes involve dozens of gene changes. And those are just the outward differences. There are also many changes in the genetics and thereby the components of wheat, all documented in hundreds of research studies from the agricultural genetics world. This is not in question: any agricultural geneticist is familiar with at least some of these studies. There have been changes, for example, in the gibberellin gene that codes for height, the gliadin alpha-9 for the form of gliadin that is the most potent trigger for celiac disease, changes in serpins, thioreductases, alpha amylase, and other allergy-provoking wheat proteins, all introduced by human intervention.
Whether the changes add up to 0.5%, 1.0%, or 3% is immaterial. Humans and baboons differ by only a bit in genetic code, typically estimated at 2% difference–but you notice the difference, I’ll bet. A critical change in one gene can spell the difference between triggering an anaphylactic shock reaction and no reaction at all. It has nothing to do with percentage difference.
This, by the way, has been the tactic employed by the wheat industry: argue a point that they claim was a point of contention, then win the argument . . . but the protein/carbohydrate content of wheat was never in question. They hope to draw away fire by arguing a non-issue. Another tactic: Deny that the evidence ever existed in the first place: “There are no studies demonstrating that wheat causes human disease,” reminding me of the Congressional testimony offered by Big Tobacco executives during the class action tobacco lawsuit: “No, Congressman: I am not aware of any studies associating cigarette smoking with lung cancer or heart disease.” Right.
Make no mistake: The wheat of today is substantially different from traditional strains of wheat. The farther you go back, the more marked the differences. Readers of the original Wheat Belly already know, for instance, that ancestral einkorn wheat contains 14 chromosomes, while emmer wheat (the wheat of the Bible) contains 28 chromosomes, and the forerunner of modern wheat, modern Tritium species, contains 42 chromosomes–we are talking about huge differences, even before humans got involved. But the real problems with wheat on a huge scale across hundreds of human diseases really gained traction when agribusiness got into the game and introduced all the hundreds, even thousands, of genetic changes into modern Tritium strains.
This research and the Huffington Post article promoting it are not just defenses of wheat; they reflect the growing desperation felt by the wheat industry as they feel the world crumbling around them. It is further reflected in the “There is no Frankenwheat” statement. Deny they ever contributed to creating a monster, deny it doesn’t have stitches and scars everywhere, looking startlingly different even to the naked eye, while it wreaks a swath of destruction across the countryside.
Surely they can do better than that.