This may seem like a redundant topic, since most of you following a Primal eating plan are already avoiding wheat. The occasional dabbing of soy sauce, maybe a bit of crusty bread at a restaurant, sure, but for the most part, you’re not munching on baguettes in parks on sunny days, wolfing down huge sandwiches, and eating pasta. Wheat avoidance tends to be the rule in our circle. Still, though, haven’t you had that moment where someone asks “What’s wrong with wheat?” and you mutter something about gluten and the advent of agriculture that doesn’t really sound convincing, even to you? Consider today’s post a crash course in exactly why modern wheat in particular is a problem. To borrow a horrible concept that has helped politicians and their cronies obfuscate the truth for decades, these are “talking points” to which you can always refer when asked. The only difference is that these talking points are based on actual research.
Before we begin, what is modern wheat?
Modern wheat is dwarf wheat, a cultivar developed in the ’60s to massively increase yield per acre. But this dwarf wheat wasn’t the lovable, bearded, wisecracking, clownish, comic relief-providing, overly self-conscious Gimli of the Lord of the Rings films, nor was it the fearsome, highly respected, resolute dwarven warrior Gimli in the books. It was a high-yielding cultivar with larger seed heads and thick, short stocks that could bear the extra weight. Being shorter, it received less sunlight than traditional wheat cultivars, but it produced a lot of grains on less acreage. Agronomist Norman Borlaug pioneered the development of these high yield dwarf varieties, refining and perfecting already existing wheat strains, and received much acclaim (including the Nobel Peace Prize) for introducing the dwarf wheat and modern agriculture to developing countries. He certainly helped many millions of people find sustenance and livelihood through wheat agriculture, but what were the unintended consequences of his forays into genetic manipulation of wheat? How is modern wheat different? What are the problems – if any – of modern wheat?