Genetically Engineered Wheat Can Boost Food Security

01.11.2017

Though genetically engineering food using science remains controversial in some circles, with concerns about genetically modified corn syrup in candy and claims that CRISPR can somehow be harmful whereas mutagenesis-derived foods can be labeled organic, progress marches on.

We're on our way to 9 million people and existing agriculture could easily handle it...if great agricultural land were evenly distributed. But is isn't evenly distributed, which is why the US and Europe can have robust markets for food created using an organic-certification process. Yield does not matter, just profit margins do, when land grows food easily.

For those that are not part of the Agricultural 1%, the discovery of genes that determine the yield of flour from wheat could increase milling yield, boosting food security and producing a healthier flour will be welcome news. The scientists behind the work believe the discovery could increase the amount of flour produced from wheat by as much as 10 percent.

That makes a big difference. Wheat is the leading temperate climate crop and provides 20 percent of the total calories and proteins consumed worldwide. Wheat grain is milled, or crushed, to make flour for bread and other food products. Australian wheat traditionally attracts a high price in the market as it has a reputation of giving high flour yields but up until now it was not possible to genetically select for this trait at early stages of breeding before.

Their work pinpointed the genes that control a cell protein which acts like a glue, holding the wheat grain's endosperm, wheat germ and bran layers together. Wheats that produce less of this glue-like protein come apart more easily in the milling process. This increases the efficiency of processing and improves the nutritional profile of the flour as more of the outer parts of the endosperm - rich in vitamins and minerals - are incorporated into the flour.

By getting 10 percent more flour from the 700 million tons of wheat produced globally each year, farmers will be producing significantly more food from the same amount of wheat.


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