A recent article published in July 2023 by the European Union details plans to utilize genomic techniques to alter the genome of an ingredient found in many of our delicious foods: wheat. Those with Celiac Disease and gluten-intolerance have been struck with the unfortunate loss of eating wheat-containing foods, and at an unfortunate price (almost 200% more than what the average person spends on food/groceries). For reference, gluten is a protein found in wheat, which those who are sensitive to/allergic to gluten cannot consume. Recently scientists in the EU; however, have proposed using cisgenesis -- a method to cross beneficial alleles from one plant to another -- to not only make wheat grown in the EU gluten-free, but also pesticide free as well. This is an immense step forward in the field of economic agriculture and the environmental well-being of citizens everywhere, as food for those who are gluten-free can become more affordable and levels of pesticide toxicity will slowly cease to impact those in the EU, in addition to the rest of the world who consumes their agricultural products. Cisgenesis has greater implications than just gluten-free wheat and pesticide-free plants, and as a matter of fact, this is what humans have been doing for centuries, except it has now become more mainstream due to pertinent implications in our everyday lives.
As someone with Celiac Disease and (unfortunately) not living in the EU, I found this article to be really promising and I am secretly hoping the U.S. starts taking some notes. I personally like this approach of utilizing genomic techniques that are not harmful like some GMOs, and don't require the introduction of chemicals into the food we consume on a daily basis. The European Union has clearly thought this decision out, and I appreciate that they have considered the economic burden of this autoimmune disease as it is not really discussed in the media. Having this representation makes those of us with Celiac more inclined to speak up and condone the improvements being made on the agricultural forefront. As I mentioned previously, the United States should truly consider implementing this in our domestic crops, especially considering how expensive gluten-free food is (for reference, try buying a $10 loaf of bread that needs to be frozen, with only 10 slices, and half of which have holes in them so they become useless anyways...doesn't sound so appealing, right?). I also believe this becomes a public health concern due to 1) the prevalence of the disease and 2) the food available and the affordability factor that comes with it. The EU is taking things in the right direction, and I can only hope that the U.S. will consider using similarly effective genomic techniques in our wheat sometime soon!
To read up more on this topic: