Answering Your Questions: The Difference Between Hybrid & GMO

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Q.  Ok, Provision Room, I have another food question: I have been hearing and reading so much lately about wheat being terrible for you because it has been genetically modified or hybridized. Do you know? Is there a form of wheat flour that can be purchased that is still good for you? We don’t mind making our own bread. I’m just having a hard time with the thought of giving up bread, all together. I’ve tried to do some Internet research on my own, but there is so much conflicting information out there, and it seems like everyone wants to sell you their latest book or diet program.

Wheat near Pendleton, Oregon (Photo: Lynn Ketchum, Oregon State Extension and Experiment Station Communications)

Wheat near Pendleton, Oregon (Photo: Lynn Ketchum, Oregon State Extension and Experiment Station Communications)

A.  All the information out there can be very confusing!  But there are some simple truths.  First, the difference between hybridization and genetically modified (GM) seeds is the difference between what can naturally occur in nature vs. what can only be accomplished in a laboratory.

Hybridization of plant species has been occurring since the beginning of agricultural development.  It is where two plant varieties within the same species cross pollinate and a new variety is created.  This process happens in the wild but people have found ways to “help” the plants along by cross pollinating in controlled environments to optimize specific plant traits.  In general, this is a completely natural process so it doesn’t adversely affect the environment or our food.

Genetically modified, often referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are completely different.  GM varieties are created in laboratories using high-tech methodologies like gene splicing.  Scientists have discovered ways to cross multiple species of plants to create new ones – something that never happens in nature.  These new plants are created to fight against pests by having certain bacterias added to them or having specific traits that protect them against herbicide sprays, insect infestations and fungal disease.  You’ve probably heard of Monsanto’s Round-Up ready corn.  Industrial corn farmers can spray this GM corn with Round-Up and the corn is unaffected while every other plant in the field is killed.  Some GM seeds are protected by laws that do not allow them to even be analyzed by other scientists outside of the laboratories they are made in.  GMO’s are not long-term tested and we do not have any ideas of what their impact will be, although many of us have our suspicions.

On to wheat.  Here is where you can get completely lost.  Although the FDA has not approved GM wheat it somehow keeps appearing in fields everywhere, specifically GM wheat developed by Monsanto who denies releasing any of their seeds.  Hmmmmm

The easiest way to avoid any GM wheat is to only purchase heirloom or certified organic wheat.  Then if you are still concerned about it I would consider sprouting or soaking it before you use it.  Many studies have shown that sprouting and soaking increase the bioavailability of the nutrients within the wheat.  Sourdough, a fermented bread, is a perfect example of bread that is good for you unless you are diagnosed with some form of wheat allergy.

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Remember when eggs were terrible for you?  Nutritionists everywhere said we all had to give up eating eggs if we wanted to control our cholesterol.  Don’t even get me started on the butter debacle where we had to immediately stop eating butter or it would definitely kill us!  Margarine was the savior of the day and look what we have found out about margarine since then.  All this to say, I believe you should eat what comes naturally from the earth not what is cooked up in some science laboratory.  I don’t think bread is bad for you.  After all Jesus compared himself to bread when he said, “I am the bread of life.”  I don’t think he would have made the comparison if bread was something that would harm you.


Summers Acres: The HomeAcre Hop
(Linked to Small Footprint Friday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Hope In Every SeasonHome Acre Hop, and Tasty Traditions)


  1. Really good info. I just wanted to stop by and let you know that your post will be featured at Thursday’s The HomeAcre Hop. I will also tweet, facebook, and +1 your post. Please stop by

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  2. Thank you for that great explanation, very thorough and easy to understand! I know that GM wheat is fairly new, and like the person who asked the question, I too have heard a lot about the hybridization of wheat. In defense of wheat some people will say, but we’ve eaten it forever. And then others have pointed out that actually, we haven’t because it’s been hybridized so much that it’s not the same as it once was. Some people, like the author of “Wheat Belly” feel that the hybridized wheat (even though its not GM) is not as good for you.

    Since my step mom was diagnosed with a wheat allergy, but was able to eat Spelt, I have been using Spelt flour now for my family as well, and soak it before making bread or other baked items. Spelt is a cousin of wheat, so it is a 1:1 replacement of wheat, tastes the same, but it hasn’t been hybridized. I get organic spelt flour and spelt berries for a good price through Azure Standard.

    I like what you have to say about natural (hybridization) vs laboratory (GMO), and agree that hybridization isn’t necessarily bad, MANY fruits and vegetables we eat have been hybridized as well. Our culture eats so many wheat products and highly processed wheat products, which is what I believe is causing the rise in wheat allergies more than wheat hybridization. And that is also the main reason we switched to spelt flour, to diversify. (We also cut out most processed foods as well.) I love what you said about how we were told that eggs were the worst once and now are esteemed. Also, the butter and its horrible replacement, margarine! So true!

    I think balance is key. We used to eat so many wheat products a day. Now I try to diversify more. For bread and some other baked items I use spelt (not gluten free), but I also try to use some gluten free flours in things as well, and also bean flours and nut flours for muffins, pancakes, granola bars, etc. We still eat whole wheat organic pasta. At this point I do not make my own English muffins, hamburger or hot dog buns so I buy the Ezekiel brand of these items, made from organic sprouted wheat flour (and other sprouted flours as well) and can get them at a pretty good price from Azure Standard, especially when they’re on sale.

    Another wheat that I don’t think is hybridized is whole white/light wheat. Sometimes it is called whole pastry flour. It’s a different kind of wheat entirely that is a lighter color and makes a lighter flour both in color and texture, but is still whole. Sometimes I use that for cookies, but I haven’t found an inexpensive version.

    • A holistic nurse practitioner told me the other day that our wheat has been so hybridized that it now contains eight times the gluten — which is why so many have developed intolerance to it.

      • Ahh, very interesting! Another reason why I use spelt, less gluten.

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