My time here in Brazil is allowing me to do some research into different topics I don’t really have time to look into in my regular life. I have been reading the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, which describes how the genetic modification of wheat has affected human health over the last 50 years. I have decided to write a series on wheat based on what I learn from the book, including some of my own research on the topic. Hopefully, you will get more educated on this topic as well.
Why is it necessary to even genetically modify wheat or any products in the first place? Why not just leave things the way mother nature created them? The main reason is to increase crop yields is to feed a growing world population (now estimated to be at 6.98 billion). About 1/6th of the world is hungry and suffering from malnutrition. That doesn’t even include those who are undernourished and not getting adequate vitamins or minerals needed to truly thrive. For those of us who generally have too much to eat, not having enough food seems like a crisis, and we need to solve it! We need to feed these people! Everyone should have a chance, right? It would be inhumane to not help these people! Don’t get me wrong, I have a bleeding heart myself. I donated money to Doctors without Borders because I learned on the evening news that 25,000 children had died recently in Africa, I bought towels for the victims of hurricane Katrina when Oprah asked me to. I get the desperation to fix human issues like world hunger.
So, scientists were put to work to figure out HOW to increase crop production, so we could feed more people for less money. Of course part of the problem is about power and social inequality more than it is about lack of food, but that is a whole other post. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (IMWIC) located in Mexico, decided to start working on genetically modifying wheat to produce larger yields and make it more energy dense. Norman Borlaug, one of the primary scientists at the IMWIC, created a dwarf wheat plant (shorter than normal varieties) which could hold a larger seed, was disease resistant, and had a high yield. He won a Nobel Prize for this work and is called the father of the Green Revolution. He was able to help several countries, who were on the brink of famine, feed their population. This was an amazing feat! The dwarf wheat he created is now more than 99% of the wheat grown worldwide. This means all of us eat the wheat he created, people are being fed because of this genetically modified wheat. This is awesome right? The issue is that none of this wheat was tested for safety….stay tuned.