Emmer, einkorn, and agribusiness 21. May 2010 William Davis (32) 10,000 years ago, Neolithic humans did not obtain wheat products from the bagel shop, grocery store, or Krispy Kreme. They obtained wheat by locating a nearby wild-growing field of wild emmer or einkorn wheat grass, then harvesting it with their stone sickles. Neolithic humans, such as the Natufians of the Fertile Crescent, carried their freshly-cut wheat home, then ground it by hand using homemade mortar and pestle. As yeast-raised bread was still some 5000 years in the future, emmer and einkorn wheat was not used to bake bread, but was consumed as a porridge in bowls. Einkorn has the simplest genetic code of 14 chromosomes, while emmer has 28 chromosomes.A third variety of wheat appeared on the scene around 9000 years ago, a natural hybridization between emmer and goat grass, yielding the 42-chromosome Triticum aestivum species. Egyptians learned how to cause wheat to rise around 3000 BC, yielding bread, rather than the unleavened flatbreads of their predecessors. From the original three basic varieties of wheat available to Neolithic man, over the past 30 years wheat has exploded to over 25,000 varieties. Where did the other 24,997+ strains come from?In the 1980s, thousands of new wheat strains arose from hybridization experiments, many of them conducted in Mexico. Then, in the late 1980s, genetic engineering quietly got underway in which geneticists inserted or deleted single genes, mostly designed to generate specific characteristics, such as height, yield per acre, drought resistance, but especially resistance to various pesticides and weed killers. The fruits of these efforts were introduced into the market in 1994. Most of the genetically modified foods were thought to be only minor modifications of the unmodified original and thus no safety testing in animals or humans was conducted. We now have many thousands of wheat strains that are different in important ways from original emmer, einkorn, and Triticum aestivum wheat. Interestingly, it has been suggested that einkorn wheat fails to provoke the same immune response characteristic of celiac disease provoked by modern wheat gluten, suggesting a different amino acid structure in gluten proteins. Another difference: Emmer wheat is up to 40% protein, compared to around 12% protein for modern wheat. In other words, the wheat of earlier agricultural humans, including the wheat of Biblical times, is NOT the wheat of 2010. Modern wheat is quite a different thing with differing numbers of chromosomes, different genes due to human manipulation, varying gluten protein composition, perhaps other differences.Somewhere in the shuffle and genetic sleight-of-hand that has occurred over the last 30 years, wheat changed. What might have been the "staff of life" has now become the cause of an incredible array of diseases of "wheat" intolerance.