Some have argued in the popular press that wheat is associated with weight gain and a range of other health issues amplified by years of plant breeding. A recent study published in AACC International's Cereal Chemistry journal gives evidence to counter the claim that plant breeding has changed the composition of wheat.
This new article titled, "Genetic gains in agronomic and selected end-use quality traits over a century of plant breeding of Canada Western Red Spring Wheat" has shown the composition of wheat has largely been unchanged after more than 100 years of breeding in Canada. This includes protein, the component of wheat responsible for gluten production.
The study also highlights the significant gains made in wheat production over the course of these years.
"For centuries, breeders of wheat and other crops have been constantly evolving plants to sustain the world's food supply while fighting heat, drought, disease, and saline soils," said Anne Bridges, AACCI's Technical Director. "But some have spun these efforts into the perception that plant breeders have made wheat unsafe. This article helps refute that claim and brings these important efforts into the foreground."
Dr. Craig Morris, Cereal Chemistry Editor-in-Chief and Supervisory Research Chemist at USDA's Agricultural Research Service, said that the article is both novel and significant. "Few papers or studies actually take this broad, long-term, historical analysis of wheat breeding and genetic improvement," said Morris. "Canada is one of the largest exporters of wheat in the world; and their breeding efforts are representative of what is happening in other countries."