The Big Picture: Wheat under attack

MACLEAN’S ARTICLE BLASTS WHEAT AS “EVIL”

it appears wheat farmers are under attack, or at least that’s what an article in the September 20, 2011 Maclean’s wants Canadians to believe. The recent Maclean’s interview “On the Evils of Wheat” with Dr. William Davis, which has been getting considerable heated reaction, says that there is no amount of wheat that should be considered healthy. Davis claims that wheat is not only highly addictive but removing it entirely from your diet will make you vastly healthier and as a bonus, much thinner. He goes on to say that the basic reason for this is the wheat we eat today has been so genetically altered, it is hardly recognizable when compared to the wheat that our grandparents ate.

The interview is a preview to Davis’ book Wheat Belly which presumably goes on to support his claim that products containing wheat should carry a surgeon general’s warning.

Such a strong and negative opinion quickly caught the attention of Grain Farmers of Ontario and we called our scientific contacts to find out the straight facts.

Davis does a great job of alarming the public around the altered genetic make-up of wheat. Gary Fulcher Head of Food Science at the University of Manitoba and current Chair of the Board of Directors at the Grains For Health Foundation was asked about wheat genetics. His response was clear — researchers in Canada have the health and safety of Canadians as their number one priority. Wheat is a highly valued staple for much of the world and great care has been taken so that very little change has been made to it for fear of affecting the quality of the world’s food supply. In fact, any wheat breeding that has taken place has only resulted in higher quality plants that are high in nutrients important to health like minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus), fibre, antioxidants and vitamins such as thiamine, niacin and riboflavin that are mainly found in the bran.

As always, there is a lot of misinformation shared and farmers can help dispel these myths. Read the article in Maclean’s (available online) and be sure to share with those who ask:

  • Wheat breeding is not detrimental to your health. Plants evolve naturally over time and wheat breeding improves wheat traits through controlled means. This is the same process as those used in fruit and vegetable breeding. 
  • Commercially-grown genetically enhanced wheat does not exist in North America.
  • Amylopectin is the main component in the majority of starches, such as cereal grains and potatoes. It is converted into blood sugar and used as energy. 
  • Sodium azide (“poison”) has not been used as a mutagen for some years. Even if it was used in seedstock breeding, there can be no residue in commercial generations of any new varieties.

It’s important to remember that wheat is an ancient grain and it has given sustenance to the world over the ages. Today, it continues to be a nutrient rich, healthful food. We know the health benefits of including whole grain foods within a balanced diet. This has been tried, tested and true. Dr. Davis is paying people a huge disservice by promoting an unhealthy lifestyle through the use of exaggeration and scare tactics. •