Scientists in Australia are raising a warning about a new genetically modified (GM) wheat that could be a trigger to significant health issues when eaten by humans.

wheat field

Jack Heinemann, a University of Canterbury professor, has released results of research into this wheat, which has been developed by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). In a press conference, Heinemann said that certain molecules in the wheat could potentially turn certain genes off. This appears to be an unintended consequence of molecules that should be turning certain wheat genes off. However, these molecules actually match some human genes, and the simple act of eating the wheat may introduce these molecules into our bodies – and into our cells.

Other scientists agree with Heinemann’s results. Judy Carmen, a professor at Flinders University, said that the particular genes affected by the wheat result in a certain enzyme not working. She went on to say that children who do not have this enzyme working will die around the age of five years.

Both Carmen and Heinemann said that they are unaware of any review of this type of wheat by CSIRO; however, both researchers are recommending specific studies be undertaken before this wheat (or products made from it) arrive on store shelves.

Safe Food Foundation’s director, Scott Kinnear, further said that long term research into the effects of the wheat should be done – particularly chronic toxicological feeding studies (in which animals are fed the crop as a significant part of their diet for a number of years, rather than the typically short feeding studies that generally last no more than a few weeks.)

Heinemann said any lifetime feed studies should look at the level of exposure that humans would have, and should also include other exposure routes, like inhalation.

Heinemann and Carmen went further with their recommendations, and stated that consumers should not be eating this wheat until these kinds of studies are done and the evidence is positive.

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