Would You Eat Genetically Modified Wheat?

gluten-free genetically modified wheat

This is going to be a quick post. I’ve got about 20 hours of work to do and 7 hours to do it. So let’s get right to it.

A few days ago, it was announced that the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture in Cordoba, Spain is working on a genetically modified bread that “may” be safe for those with celiac disease. Here are some tidbits from the article.

Tidbit: They are using a genetic modification technique to remove 90 per cent of the gliadins in wheat.

Tidbit: Because the new strains still contain some kinds of gluten, the wheat can still be used to bake bread.

Tidbit: This is a direct quote from one Jan Chojecki – “It’s regarded as being pretty good, certainly better than anything on the gluten-free shelves.”

Tidbit: “Some people will be very happy with this,” says Sarah Sleet, head of patients’ group Coeliac UK, not least because sticking to a gluten-free diet is difficult.

I’m just going to bullet-point my thoughts here.

  • I’m extremely pro-science. I believe the earth is round. I believe dinosaurs existed. I believe in evolution. I believe climate change is real and we need to act NOW so the generations that follow can live a good life. My point? This is not a “keep science out of my life” kind of thing.
  • I’m not judging anyone here. This is an open forum and I totally get that a lot of my fellow celiacs would love this. Respect.
  • My body tells me I should not eat gluten and if I do, it will attack itself. I’m not eating gluten. To me…it’s really that simple.
  • I don’t need to eat gluten so I can feel normal. Gluten-free is normal to me.
  • Hey Jan Chojecki, don’t be so arrogant. All gluten-free bread does not suck. And there are many talented people out there working their asses off to make a gluten-FREE bread that is safe, delicious and not filled with crap.
  • And hey Sara Sleet, don’t tell people with celiac disease that sticking to a gluten-free diet is difficult. Because it’s really not. Yeah…it’s got its challenges, but c’mon.
  • We have multiple pharma companies working on a drug so we can eat gluten again. We have people genetically modifying wheat so we can eat gluten again. While they may be trying to simply help the community, the cynic in me says these people see dollar signs as well. Good thing I’m totally not a cynic.

Ok…I now have 6.5 hours to do 20 hours of work so I’m outta here. Would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this. Do you like the idea? Hate it? Are you curious? Would you eat it?

Do tell…

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57 thoughts on “Would You Eat Genetically Modified Wheat?”

  1. I’ve been gluten free for over 5 years now , and just yesterday, I was asking my doctor what she thought of me baking for my family (not myself) using regular flour. I use Nutri flour blend (it’s heavier and tends not to float in the air like other flours). I find it to be a nice compromise, but my doctor suggested my husband do it. My husband can cook eggs and chicken, but he doesn’t bake (and stuff like that). Would I eat the flour in the article? Yes! I miss being able to bake like I used to (without trial and error and dozens of ingredients where there used to be only one). I never got to make homemade bread with my boys and lately I’ve been wanting to make pies (you know where the crust is fancy and Pinterest worthy). I just don’t have the energy to spend time running for a dozen ingredients just to be able to make a bread that isn’t mostly rice flour and starch.

  2. Surely everyone in the business to some degree sees $ signs, Scott? You and I both try to sell our books, Nima try to sell their kits, pharma companies are seeking profits. A sense of altruism can combine with financial pragmatism. Even charities fundraise. Strongly feel being pro-science requires us to acknowledge that scientists study for years to bring us the kind of innovation and breakthroughs we may see in the future – and deserve to be paid for it.

    1. I agree Alex. The thing is people like you, I, Nima, etc. are making a bit of $$ because we are helping people. That’s why we did what we did. I certainly did not become an advocate to make money. And believe me, I ain’t making much and I don’t care. And I’m not saying the scientists and the pharma companies are evil. Well maybe the pharma.

      1. Disagree even with the pharma, with exceptions. We live in a capitalist society, and it’s harnessing of greed has created the greatest prosperity (and resultant long lifespan) that humanity has ever witnessed. Big pharma is of course motivated by money. So is every business you depend upon. Big pharma can do bad things – they are run by humans. So can any other business.

        As for eating the GMO wheat – if it had no gliadin, I’d try it. With gliadin, no.

        1. I have always believed that GMO grown wheat was modified to increase yield in the crop. Am I wrong in assuming that an increased yield would also increaser the amount of gluten in the wheat? I have also thought that they were already growing GMO wheat and have been for several years now. During a time frame in which there has been an increase in Celiac cases. If they can genetically modify it produce less or no gluten, that would be great. I also hope that big Pharma can come up with a solution to this problem and price it so that the average person can afford it. That would be a trick in and of itself.

  3. Seems Alex is hypersensitive about the capitalist side of things because he makes his entire living off of other people’s suffering, whereas this blog is not Gluten Dude’s primary source of income.

  4. Yes, I like the idea. Yes, I am curious about it. However, there is no way I would ever consider eating it. Besides the damage that tiny amount of gluten will do to me, I need to stay away from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates cause two problems: 1) high blood sugar, 2) dense lipids. This leads to diabetes and heart disease. My recommendation is to break the carbohydrate habit before it becomes a problem.

  5. Not curious to try. It’s not worth the reaction I will get from the small amount of gluten it will still contain. Thanks but no thanks. Now, do I miss coconut cream pie? Yes, but I’ve had to give up a lot of things to have a healthy gut.

  6. Um…no.

    Removing 90% of the gliadins still leaves 10%! If it was removing 99.9% of gliadins, I might feel differently. But probably not. I get so sick when I eat just a tiny bit (hello, Advil Liquigels *angryface*) with the worst reaction for me being major MAJOR depression. Messing with my brain like that isn’t worth it. Ever.

  7. In my opinion, this is an insane proposition. It is predicated on the belief that a small amount is safe. That simply makes no sense at all. The autoimmune system is designed to react to the smallest assaults by microscopic invaders. It “remembers” them so it can attack faster the next time so we don’t get sick. This is the system destroying the body of a celiac. Why would a tiny bit of gluten somehow be safe from a defective system designed to attack invaders ASAP so they don’t multiply enough to make us sick? If it makes no sense, then it is not true.

  8. I felt the same when I read that line “sticking to a GF diet is hard”. As you said, I say too: it’s normal for me. It’s probably adding years to my life. I don’t eat gluten. Period. I also am pro-science, and I also feel like these people are seeing dollar signs and I’m also trying not to be too cynical. But I do know my own body, and I do know I’m the one ultimately responsible for its care. No, I won’t be eating “gluten mostly removed” bread. I don’t eat much bread at all, and when I do I eat one of my favorite safe ones, and that’s that. Thanks, Dude. Hope you make your work deadline.

  9. I would never eat it. I’ve been living as a celiac for 15 years now. I don’t need some corporation making GMO wheat on my behalf so I can feel more “normal.” Just the thought of it makes my skin crawl! Gluten-free breads have come a long way in 15 years. So have gluten-free pastas. I don’t feel deprived.

    And to Sarah Sleet and people like her, I’m not “sticking to a gluten-free diet” — this is simply how I eat. To frame this as a “diet” one “sticks to” makes it sound like some kind of fad weight loss scheme we can choose to follow or choose to cheat on at will. It plays into the popular mindset that this is somehow a choice we have.

    1. Indeed. You don’t go on a diet. Your diet is whatever you eat every day. Ours doesn’t include gluten. Period. It’s that mentality that says ‘I’ll go on a diet and get healthier so I can then go back to the old unhealthy diet and wonder why I gained the weight back’ which results in so many obese Americans.

      1. Randi, you might try Katz Gluten Free Bakery. They ship from New York and their glazed donut holes zapped in the microwave for 15-30 seconds take care of my donut cravings. They have donuts but I haven’t tried them because the donut holes are so good.

    2. I was told about 5 years ago that I was Celiac. I was really good at STICKING to the new diet for about two years. Then I would find myself cheating once in a while with no ill effects. No depression, no abdominal pain, nothing. Then last year I cheated a lot. The only thing that happened is that I lost weight. I have had people tell me that I don’t really have Celiac. I don’t know. My doctor said I did. When I was diagnosed, I would get SEVER abdominal pains. Went through that for 6 months. Hell, they even took out my gall bladder because they thought that was the problem. So does anyone have any thoughts on this? Because all I have seen here is that if people with Celiac even look at flour they get sick and depressed.

      As for “good” gluten free foods. For the most part, that’s a joke. I have found exactly three things that are any good at all. Mt. Mikes G/F Pizza, Barelle G/F pasta, and King Auther Pancake mix. I haven’t found any bread that is worth a damn. The one I use is the UDI’s from Costco. The ONLY thing it has going for it is that it’s big enough to actually make a decent sandwich. Aside from that, it’s like every other G/F bread. Dry, stale and expensive.

  10. If science truly understood all the celiac issues (including NCGS and related issues) and could definitely say it was this, this and this protein and no others, then maybe once a year or something. I feel the same way about drugs. I might try it once if I were feeling really brave but we just don’t know enough to be sure there wouldn’t be long term damage or other unintended consequences.

    A gluten free diet is safe and effective for most people. One of the biggest challenges is the cost and I can’t see this genetically modified wheat being any less expensive, so why bother? (Especially when there’s only enough safe gluten left in it to make rolls.)

  11. My first thought is – we are already eating modified wheat! Wheat today has been scientifically proven to be very different than wheat that was grown 200 years ago, and that is possibly why there is a rise in Celiac diagnoses. Possibly – key word. If, and only if, this new wheat proves to be SAFE for Celiacs to eat, I will absolutely go for it! I miss my occasional gluten-filled items, and if this new wheat helps make the GF food taste better, why not?

    That being said, regarding your bullet points – I’ve been Celiac for almost 5 years, and while it’s gotten easier every day to manage my diet, there are still external obstacles that make “sticking” to the diet problematic, and yes, difficult when I have to deal with the aftermath – cross-contamination, other chef’s accidentally adding the wrong ingredients, cost, etc. It’s a reality that it is not as easy to eat a truly GF diet than a regular diet.

    Also, I love you to death, and really enjoy reading your blogs, however YOUR message saying we shouldn’t be eating gluten anyway (whether we have Celiac or not) can come across as arrogant too. You are correct, it might not be the healthiest choice to eat, but not everyone eats such a clean diet as you do. (Bravo that you do!) Is it healthy for me to have ice cream? No, but I’m not going to ban it forever from my diet forever, esp if just a small bowl will curb my craving! Life is short, we are allowed to enjoy it once in awhile – even if it involves a genetically modified (and safe) wheat-infused donut or two! 🙂

    1. Sorry, Roberta, but eating a little ice cream is different than for a celiac eating gluten. The ice cream won’t cause your own body to attack itself and make you sick for days. There is in fact a difference. Also, as you go along in life as a celiac, no, it’s not always easy, but you do get better and better at dealing with how you need to eat.

      1. I understand that many people with celiac cross react to casein. I am one of them and I am sick for days after eating dairy. Granted, not the same degree of stomach pain and cramping, brain fog and depression like gluten; but several hours a day in the bathroom, popping handfuls of Imodium, and inability to make it to the bathroom on time isn’t fun either. My favorite food is cheese and once a year or so in a weak moment I indulge and pay dearly. Wouldn’t dream of doing that with gluten ever. But GMO, just say NO!

      2. Maybe ice cream was a bad choice to use…what I meant was in reference to being able to eat anything in general. Many times GD has mentioned that, even if he could eat gluten, he wouldn’t b/c it’s usually found in food we shouldn’t be eating anyway (whether you are Celiac or not) – donuts, etc. Agreed, that those types of foods aren’t the healthiest to eat, but if we COULD – which is the original question he was asking – I would still indulge every now and then… like I do with ice cream.

    2. I’m not sure what you are referring to. I said as a celiac, I shouldn’t be eating gluten (and have no desire to). I never said gluten is bad for everyone, unless I’m misreading you. Oh…and I love you too. [[[[ ]]]]

  12. Obviously, they have never tasted the bread from Outside the Breadbox in Colorado Springs. I don’t need GMOs in my diet. Healthy food is good enough for me. And being ten years gluten free, I’m not “sticking” to a diet. Is it hard – really only when I pass a pizzeria. Although, again, Outside the Breadbox has a pretty good pizza crust. Why do people think we all are dying to go back to eating cheeseburgers and fried onion rings? I feel better. I look better. No brain fog. So I’m fine, content and healthy.

    And I bake. I bake pies, cakes, cookies, breads, muffins, coffeecakes, and anything else you can name – all at high altitude. I found a fabulous flour mix (from the online site Art of Gluten Free Baking)that I make in bulk and store in the freezer. I have a few tricks that I’ve learned (make up your cookie dough, wrap and let it sit overnight) and have no issues. My family finds other treats too sweet, too gummy.

    Life is good. Being gluten free is doable. Families can be happy.

    1. I’m going to look up that brand and hope I can get it in Kansas City. Funny, when I was on vacation in Denver, I found so many awesome places to eat (Vital Root is my fav). CO has it going on!

  13. I don’t see any need to try it. Just the tiniest bit of cross contamination causes symptoms for weeks. That being said, I am not complaining that they are working towards more options for people with gluten sensitivity. This seems like it could be helpful for someone with NCGS who can ingest a little gluten but not a lot. As a celiac, it’s not for me, but that’s okay.

  14. My husband has been diagnosed Celiac for 9 years. Our daughter for 6 years. I really appreciate how important it is for my husband to be gluten free so our house and our life is gluten free for both of us. But I hate not being able to be spontaneous when asked to go out to eat. We play 100 questions and check the internet unless we are going to one of the 5 safe places in our area.

    I too am suspicious of food and pharmaceutical conglomerates. But my husband is also Type 2 diabetic and takes a pill every day to help control his blood sugar numbers. Something we cannot do by restricting food alone, we tried. So I am wondering if it isn’t possible for science to figure out how Celiac Disease works and provide a pill to reduce down the effects of gluten. Not to cure it but to help manage it. Eating healthy is always a good plan but a little relief would be helpful.

    What I appreciate about your blog is the accurate and real information you provide and the important topics you present for discussion. Thank you

  15. I find many of the gluten free products quite palatable when toasted (canyon bakehouse bagels, against the grain rolls, etc) so why possibly hurt my body with manipulated products until science really proves the benefit?

  16. Pretty sure that modifications to wheat and how they are harvested is why Celiac has blown up in recent years. So, why in the world would I want to take the chance to even introduce this kind of concept into my already sensitive system. I get it, Americans LOVE their baked goods…I am one of them, but not at the detriment of the symptoms have have lived with for over a decade and frankly my entire life (hello infertility and irregular periods).

    Do I struggle? Daily. Do I wish I could eat yummy German bread or a gourmet deep dish pizza? Everyday. But my issue is more about should I? My relationship with food and my relationship to how I view the world is my issue. Not because I can’t have the bread in the breadbasket at a restaurant. I’ve been GF for 3-years now and I am seriously on the biggest journey of my life, not the diagnosing, painful, crappy throughout my 20’s and 30’s part of my life. But my life post-gluten, I have discovered wonderful new foods (thank you spaghetti squash), that maybe I need to rethink dairy too, and whole mess of other things that can contribute to the way I feel. So, bottom-line…it might be good for some, but no thanks…I’ll continue the journey that is right for me, science or no science!

    1. Jennifer K~~ DITTO!

      OMG I miss bread SO much(!!), but not enough to risk my health for it, it sound good, but it is not worth it.

      1. Start baking your own. Bob’s Red Mill has a mix for what they call “Hearty Whole Grain Bread”. If you like dark breads with lots of body and flavor, try it. It already has sunflower seeds and sesame seeds in it, but add some chopped walnuts (black walnuts if you’re a fan) and it’s even better. They have some others if you’re looking for something more like a white loaf. Montana Gluten Free has a mix for an oat-based bread (and they’re a purity protocol oat producer) that produces a nice loaf (although I find it a bit too much on the sweet side).

        Or start experimenting. If you’re willing to either pitch or eat the occasional doorstop loaf, it’s fun to try different things. I’ve made some decent pita with a mix of millet flour, cassava flour, and oat bran. Better than most commercial pita and the dough works pretty well for pizza crust, too. I recently got some white buckwheat flour (from Bouchard Family Farms in Maine) and I’ll probably substitute that for the millet flour in my next experiment.

        There’s a whole world of gluten free bread out there, much of it as yet unexplored.

  17. I was diagnosed Celiac after an endoscopy for something unrelated. Biopsy and blood test – so I believe it. But, totally asymptomatic other than the damage to the small intestine. I literally have zero external symptoms. If I could have wheat and NOT have the damage done? You bet. I have been 100% gluten free since being diagnosed 2 years ago, no cheating even though I can’t tell. Would I love to be able to? Sure. As a former professional pastry chef I do miss the ability to use ALL the ingredients!

  18. Just the memory of what my life and health was like before my diagnosis and the knowledge of what gluten does to me internally is enough to say no way! The sad thing about this is people newly diagnosed who are still learning to navigate their new gluten free reality may view something like this with hope that their life doesn’t have to drastically change. Is living with Celiac a challenge? Sometimes it definitely can be. The human body is resilient and we can adjust to anything. In the beginning it was hard as I was learning about the disease, what it does to me and what I needed to do to take my life back. Going back to wheat no matter how safe someone may say genetically altered wheat may be is just so not worth it.

  19. I don’t think I’d have any problems with it if the bread baked with it tested down in the 5ppm range, but that doesn’t sound likely. I don’t have a problem with that sort of genetic modification. (I don’t want to eat stuff modified to be “Roundup-ready”, but I don’t have a problem with Bt mods, for example, or golden rice.)

    But what I wish they were working on is modification of the proteins in some crop, maybe rice or millet or sorghum or buckwheat, to create a variety that could be milled into a flour that worked in yeast breads like wheat flour. And if they could do it in a way that made the new variety’s flour produce bread that tasted more like wheat bread, that would really be great.

  20. No thanks. I don’t want to be even 10% sick.

    I also get so annoyed when people say it’s hard to eat gluten free. Gives the cheaters too much of an excuse. I also hate when people say the gf diet is nutritionally deficient. My gastroenterologist says it all the time and I want to throw something at her every time she does.

    1. Re : “nutritionally deficient”:

      I’m with you on that– it annoys me, too. Most of my grain consumption pre-GF was whole grain, which doesn’t usually have the vitamins and minerals added back into white flour. For example, I’ve switched from wheat flakes and wheat bran in my homemade granola to quinoa flakes and rice or oat bran. I don’t see how that makes it “nutritionally deficient”– it may even be better. And lots of my meals are the same as they were pre-GF.

  21. I would be afraid to touch it. Unless Krispy Kreme comes up with a totally GF donut that’s as good as the original, I’m not interested in anything that “may” cause me that much pain. ‘taint worth it. I also watched an interesting documentary about how bread was originally made from unprocessed wheat with only a couple of ingredients. The baker that still makes it this old world method swears a celiac could eat his bread. The suggestion is that celiacs disease developed after our over-processed wheat production came into play. Don’t know. Anyone?

    1. CD is a hereditary auto immune disease and has been around longer then current types of wheat and bread production. It was called wasting disease in children and was first associated with wheat during WWII. The only real question here is are the higher rates of CD today due to better diagnosis or due to higher gluten wheat grain. So far there is no science to support the higher gluten wheat claims and I would consider them to be the kind of typical psuedo scientific claims used in click bait. Celiacs immune system reacts to gluten and wheat has always had gluten.

      As for the baker who suggests that his bread would be safe for Celiacs he clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about. If it has wheat flour it has gluten and our bodies will react. Sadly, there is way too much of this sort of miss information and internet rumors that muddy the waters and make life more difficult for us.

      As for genetically modified wheat I’d have to see some very robust testing and testimonials form Celiacs before I would even consider it. I’m a cynic by nature and extremely skeptical of America’s food industry. They are all about profits and don’t give a rats ass about our health. Obesity, diabetes and many other chronic health issues in America today are the result of the processed crap they have been feeding us.

      Cali Celiac

      1. Good point. There has been a rise in autism as well, but probably due to better diagnosis. Maybe all scientific data regarding gluten should be done by celiacs. I’d wear a hazmat suit though. Thanks for the info Cali Celiac. From one Cali celiac to another, safe eating!

      2. Cali, you are one smart cookie! I enjoy reading your posts.

        In the old days, people didn’t eat gluten like they do now. And did you know, they sell gluten by the bag now! Are we making people sicker? I don’t know. Maybe it is not the wheat at all, maybe it is the fact that we are consuming exponential amounts of gluten, along with chemicals, “natural” flavors, and that ilk, that we are simply our worst enemy?

  22. Would I try bread with (yet again) modified wheat? Absolutely not.

    Just do the math and apply a little (un)common sense.

    FDA says “you’ll be fine as long as the gluten is less than 20 parts per million.”

    This latest hogwash you reference says, “you should be fine because we are removing 90% of the gliadin.”

    Please correct me if my math is wrong… but starting with that same million parts…

    1,000,000 x 10% = 100,000.

    So the FDA says less than 20 ppm, this latest bunch says less than 100,000 ppm. And I for one know my body will react at far less than the FDA claim.

    That, my dearest celiac community, is why I would not try it.


  23. Would I try it myself … nnnnnnnnyyyyyyyyaaaaahh. (I would be curious though.)

    Does that mean I think it a waste of time for science to try to genetically modify wheat? Absolutely not. Some people have other medical problems that improve when they cut gluten out of their diet – it’s not medically necessary, but their other symptoms improve. A GMO low gluten wheat might be a heaven send for some of those people.

    Secondly, even if there is no direct benefit to coeliacs from this attempt to make a low gluten “safe” bread – science advances as much from the failures as the successes, and who knows what they might learn just from trying?

  24. I agree with you. Being gluten free is only difficult for people who do not have celiac and for celiacs who become victims of companies that contaminate us just so that they can get a sale. When your body goes through great lengths to reject something, I think it is a good sign to stay away from it.

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

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I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

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