Bakers: Bioengineered wheat variety coming before decade’s end

by Laura Lloyd
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KANSAS CITY — It may be about eight years before bioengineered wheat is available to grow in the United States, but it is an inevitability that will require extensive planning and consumer education efforts, said Len Heflich, a baking executive who serves as chairman of the Food Technical Regulatory Affairs Committee of the American Bakers Association.

Mr. Heflich was part of a three-person “Bakers Panel” at the Wheat Quality Council meeting held Feb. 19 in Kansas City. Also sharing insights about the future of wheat as it is used in the manufacturing of bread and other baked goods were two other industry professionals: Theresa S. Cogswell, a baking consultant with BakerCogs in Overland Park, Kas, and Charlie Moon, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga.

“Biotech wheat is going to happen because it is going to happen,” Mr. Heflich said. Ms. Cogswell added that 95% of sugar beets were planted from bioengineered seed the first year they were available. She said it would be better for the wheat industry if bioengineered wheat would have a similar high percentage of plantings the first year it becomes available.

Mr. Moon was a bit less willing to endorse an agenda promoting bioengineered wheat.

The panelists acknowledged that adding bioengineered traits for such attributes as disease and insect resistance as well as drought tolerance would be a complicated process. But they said that the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population as well as the desire of farmers for the high yields expected of a bioengineered variety of wheat would keep research moving ahead.
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