Scientists in the United Kingdom have successfully grown gene-edited wheat that produces less of a potentially carcinogenic compound called acrylamide when baked. Acrylamide forms during bread baking and its presence is further increased when bread is toasted, and the darker the toast, the more of this carcinogenic compound it contains.
The team, led by researchers at Rothamsted Research, used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique to knock out a gene that produces a compound called asparagine. Asparagine is one of the precursors to acrylamide formation, and by reducing the amount of asparagine in wheat, the researchers were able to reduce the amount of acrylamide formed when bread is baked.
The researchers grew the gene-edited wheat in field trials and found that it produced flour with about half the level of asparagine as conventional wheat. When bread was made from this flour, it contained about 40% less acrylamide than bread made from conventional wheat flour.
The researchers say that their gene-edited wheat could have a significant impact on public health. Acrylamide is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the European Food Safety Authority has set a limit for acrylamide in food. Reducing the amount of acrylamide in bread could help to reduce the risk of cancer.
The researchers are now working to commercialize their gene-edited wheat. They say that it could be available to consumers within the next few years.
What is Acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a chemical that forms when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures, such as frying, roasting, and grilling. Acrylamide is also formed in smaller amounts when bread is toasted.
Acrylamide is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This means that there is some evidence that acrylamide can cause cancer in humans. However, more research is needed to confirm this link.
How to Reduce Acrylamide Formation in Food
There are a few things you can do to reduce acrylamide formation in food:
- Cook starchy foods at lower temperatures.
- Avoid overcooking starchy foods.
- Choose cooking methods that do not involve high heat, such as boiling or steaming.
- Do not toast bread until it is dark brown or black.
Benefits of Gene-Edited Wheat
In addition to reducing the amount of acrylamide in bread, gene-edited wheat could also have other benefits. For example, it could be made more resistant to drought and pests. It could also be made to have higher levels of nutrients.
Risks of Gene-Edited Wheat
There are some potential risks associated with gene-edited wheat. For example, it could have unintended consequences for human health or the environment. It could also lead to increased corporate control of the food supply.