Cereal production around the world is free of genetically modified plants. This means that all flour used to make bread is “GM-free”. Nonetheless, many of today’s baked goods are made with help of genetic engineering.
Even though the introduction of genetically modified wheat to North America was planned for 2004, the application for approval has been withdrawn. The United States and Canada are major exporters of wheat and will continue producing only conventional wheat cultivars. This will probably remain the case for some time, as tests on fungus resistant GM wheat are still far from being completed. The only genetically modified cereals produced today are maize and rice, neither of which is used in Europe for baking.
Genetically modified ingredients
It takes more than just flour to make bread. Many ingredients found in bread and baked goods are sometimes made with the help of genetic engineering.
- Several ingredients often found in baked goods are derived from soybeans: oils, lecithin and other emulsifiers, and even soy flour, which is sometimes mixed with wheat flour in small quantities (up to 1 percent) due to its physical properties.
- Maize is the basis for various starches and other ingredients like glucose syrup (corn syrup), which is produced by starch saccharification.
- Other flour additives may also be produced with the help of genetic engineering, for example: ascorbic acid (E300) or cysteine (E921).
- Enzymes are often added to baked goods. They can make dough easier to process, make it expand, or provide for an ideal crust. Many of the enzymes used today (e.g. amylase) are made with the help of genetically modified microorganisms.
No GM yeast
At this point, no baked goods are made with genetically modified baker’s yeast. A few years ago, a genetically modified strain of baker’s yeast was tested in Great Britain. This new strain had enhanced carbon dioxide production. It was hoped that it could help make bread rise more quickly, but in practice, the yeast was unsuccessful. Genetically modified yeast would have to be approved by the EU for use, and as of now, no applications have been submitted.
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