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LETTER: Wheat a staple of SD agriculture

To the Editor:

I write in response to a March 24 article, "Gluten-free products rising in popularity in SD."  While much of it is accurate, the quote from Karen Wieseler is not.  She claims, "(Wheat grains) have been so genetically modified that they now have at least 50 percent more gluten in a single grain than they did 30 or 40 years ago."

First, there is no GMO wheat in the entire world's food supply. Wheat, like all other food plants we eat, has undergone farmer selection and traditional breeding over the years. The first hybridization occurred 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. All cultivated wheat varieties have the same kinds of protein (and gluten) present.  A recent journal article confirms this, having reviewed data back to 1925, with no evidence supporting increased gluten content due to wheat breeding over the past century.

Dr. Stephano Guandalini, founder and director of the Center for Celiac Disease at the University of Chicago, as well as other celiac disease researchers, stress that the "modern wheat" and "GMO wheat" myths, are just that, myths.

Secondly, a person doesn't "catch" celiac disease. You must have a gene to develop CD. An excellent research review article in the September issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tackles this topic: Gluten-Free Diet: Imprudent Dietary Advice for the General Population? By Glenn Gaesser and Siddhartha Angadi, the article makes the following conclusions:

• While a gluten-free diet is important for individuals with celiac and gluten sensitivity, there's no evidence that gluten-free diets are beneficial for weight loss

• Research shows gluten-free diets can be inadequate in essential nutrients (linked to deficiencies in B vitamins, iron and folate)

• Gluten-free baked goods are often high in fat and calories

• Going gluten-free for purposes of weight loss may have unintended consequences

Wheat has long been a staple agricultural product in SD and our farmers are proud of the nutritious product they raise. We are members of the Wheat Foods Council, a nutrition education organization which constantly monitors peer-reviewed wheat research and is convinced of the importance of wheat in the diet.