Tuesday, June 4, 2013
GMO wheat OMG
From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: We had two pieces of good news on Friday—the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that land cannot be condemned for the sole reason of making money for a corporation AND several big box stores, including Target and Whole Foods—are refusing to handle GMO salmon because consumers don’t want it. Then, the good news was followed immediately by the mega bad news that GMO wheat, which is another thing that consumers absolutely don’t want, has been discovered in Oregon. Wheat, like corn, canola, soy and sugar, is an ingredient in much of what we eat, from meat with gravy to fried foods to bread to cookies and other baked goods. European culture is often called a wheat culture. For the people on the planet with anti-wheat conditions like celiac disease, eating is a real challenge. So, for those of us that don’t want any more problems with our food, the idea that an untested GMO wheat might spread into the food system is horrifying. Even before genetic engineering, wheat has been changed from the original. It has been hybridized for years. That is, varieties with a desired strain have been crossed by farmers with another strain to provide some kind of benefit. Modern wheat is shorter, more protein-laden, and has more chromosomes than original wheat. It can be harvested by big equipment more easily. It can tolerate more nitrogen without falling down and usually requires one or more blasts of nitrogen as it grows. On my farm we grow ten varieties of non-hybidized wheats that haven’t been popular since the 1920s. They vary from Fultz, which was the most popular wheat in America at one time, to Touzelle, a French variety that Louis IX thought could cure him of an unknown malady. One of our wheats is almost as tall as me, and we have to harvest with scythes. Oregon is very far from Missouri, thank goodness. If we got GMO genes in our wheat, I’d be devastated.