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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Is Genetically Modified Wheat the Solution to Celiac Disease?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 06/30/2014 - The people who grow wheat think they might have a solution for people with celiac disease: Genetically modified wheat.

    Photo: CC--bluemooseBy genetically modifying wheat, researchers are looking to ‘silence’ proteins that trigger adverse immune reactions in people with celiac disease.

    A research team working on just such a project recently published a report of their results in the Journal of Cereal Science. The team included researchers Cristina M. Rosella, Francisco Barrob, Carolina Sousac, and Ma Carmen Menad.

    Their report acknowledges that creating strains of wheat with reduced gluten toxicity is difficult using conventional breeding methods, and that genetic modification, in particular a technology called RNA interference (RNAi), hold the greatest promise in reducing or ‘silencing’ the gluten proteins in wheat and other cereals. Such technology allows researchers to develop gluten-free wheat strains by adjusting the gluten fractions toxic to those with celiac disease.

    They acknowledge that their efforts could face resistance fueled by global concerns around genetically modified foods. They also note that current and prior genetic modification efforts have not produced products with tangible benefits to the consumer. Rather, the main beneficiaries of such efforts have been large companies and/or farmers.

    According to their report, the development of genetically modified wheat lines suitable for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance could be a major turning point.

    Their efforts to create celiac-friendly wheat varieties via genetic modification aims to “solve a health problem that directly affects a large proportion of consumers, in developed as well as developing countries, and with higher consumer awareness.”

    What do you think? Is this a possible breakthrough? Would you be interested in wheat that had been genetically modified to be safe for people with celiac disease?

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    I don't care who thinks GMO's are the way to 'cure' anything! They are destructive and I refuse to ever eat Frankenfood. I support certified organic and the environment the way it's meant to be not this fake food!

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    What other medical conditions will genetically engineered wheat bring on? Leave nature to nature and just cut out foods with gluten from your diet. It's not the end of the world! There is still plenty left to eat!

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    Let's ask the people wit celiac disease what they think. This sounds like it is still in the early stages of development, but sounds like it could be a breakthrough. In the long run, if we ban all GM Foods, we will starve.

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    I think the article is right on. Perhaps this modification will work out, perhaps not. But it looks potentially promising and it would irresponsible not to pursue the matter further. It dismays me when others (three of the previous four comments above) irrationally dismiss this topic out of hand merely because it uses the technique "GMO." Luddenites! I don't know of any DOCUMENTED case where the consumption of a GM food has ever caused damage to the person. If you know of such a case, and it is DOCUMENTED (not simply your impression or an offhand comment from your aunt Suzy), please let me know. Science largely supports the development of GM foods (i.e., Scientific American and Technology Review [MIT]) much the same way it also almost universally acknowledges the fact that global warning is actually occurring in the face of ridiculous political (Fox News, Tea Party) denials.

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    Noo! This is awful. Where do you think celiac came from?! Genetically modifying our foods!

    Actually, no, GMOs have nothing to do with celiac disease. The increased gluten concentration found in today's wheat is ENTIRELY due to conventional cross-breeding of strains to select for the desired trait - in this case, the better bread texture that gluten provides.

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    This is absurd. Certainly people with celiacs are looking for gluten free options, but taking the gluten out of wheat does not make sense. The properties of wheat based products that we love (the chewiness of bread, the texture of cake and cookies) comes from gluten. Removing the gluten from wheat will not give you a product with similar properties to regular wheat, it will give you a product with the properties of other gluten-free wheat replacement options (rice flour, bean flour). We do not need gluten-free wheat. People with celiacs need gluten alternatives. This GMO effort is a waste of research money. We don't even need to discuss how GMOs are bad for farming methods, bad for natural cross pollination, bad for organic farmers, and bad for your health. This is a short sighted idea by someone who doesn't seem to understand exactly what gluten is and what it's properties are.

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    Let's ask the people wit celiac disease what they think. This sounds like it is still in the early stages of development, but sounds like it could be a breakthrough. In the long run, if we ban all GM Foods, we will starve.

    My MD routinely checked me for allergies, general, food, etc. This was in 1973-4 and the approx. 70 scratches on my arm were filled with small rub-on products that a person could be allergic to. I was highly allergic to wheat, nicotine, peas, less allergic to salmon, codfish, tomatoes, etc. I've had 5 vocal cord strippings in the past 15 years and may need 1 more. It is called 'severe dysplasia', next door to cancer. I will be 68 in Nov. 2014 and am in superb condition, other than allergies and things they cause. I get sleepy when I eat certain foods and that's annoying. Etc. Don't see much helping. I don't want GMO's of any kind unless I really need it. Bye!

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    Genetically modified strains of wheat, no matter how they are developed, will eventually be the answer. You can't just lump all GMOs together and say they're all bad.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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