Part of the attraction of ancient grains for some is the idea that they’ve maintained the same properties over thousands of years while so many other crops have undergone some form of genetic modification.

“A lot of the nutritional value has been hybridized out of wheat because the growers are looking for different qualities, not necessarily nutrition or even taste,” said Mary Waldner, chairman and co-founder, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Gridley, CA. “The ancient grains have been pretty much untouched, and the fiber and the vitamins and minerals are still there.”

Although purposeful genetic engineering of wheat has only just begun in the US and is not likely ever to take off in Europe (see the July issue of Baking & Snack, available online at, many consumers and snack producers alike hold the belief that the grain has already been modified from its original state.

The NPD Group, Port Washington, NY, released results from a “Food Safety Monitor” survey earlier this year about US consumer concerns about genetically modified (GM) foods. The study found that almost three out of four US consumers have some level of awareness of genetically modified foods, with 16% of adults highly aware. In addition to the 48% of adults who have some level of concern that GM foods pose a health hazard, 15% are extremely concerned or very concerned.

“I think there’s just a basic consumer distrust for traditional wheat- and corn-based products,” said Jim Garsow, director of marketing, TH Foods, Inc., Loves Park, IL. “Consumers continue to be bombarded with negative messages about gluten, GMOs, artificial flavors, trans fats, etc. Ancient grains in their natural, whole-grain form provide great, nutritious options for consumers looking to live healthier lifestyles.”