Scientists: ‘Super’ Wheat To Boost Food Security

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Scientists say they’re close to producing new “super varieties” of wheat that will resist a virulent fungus while boosting yields up to 15 percent, potentially easing a deadly threat to the world’s food supply.

The research is part of a global drive to protect wheat crops from the Ug99 strain of stem rust. It will be presented next week at a conference in St. Paul that’s part of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, based at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., organizers said Thursday.

Scientists will also report that Ug99 variants are becoming increasingly virulent and are being carried by the winds beyond Uganda and other East African countries where they were first identified in 1999. Once infected with the deadly fungus, wheat plants become covered in reddish-brown blisters.

According to a news release issued by the initiative ahead of the symposium, the fungus has now spread across all of eastern and southern Africa, and it might just be a matter of time before it reaches India or Pakistan, and even Australia and the Americas.

“We are facing the prospect of a biological firestorm, but it’s also clear that the research community has responded to the threat at top speed, and we are getting results in the form of new varieties that are resistant to rust and appealing to farmers,” Ronnie Coffman, who heads the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project at Cornell, said in the release.

Researchers will report at the conference that new varieties of wheat under development at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico show resistance to all three kinds of wheat rust — stem rust including Ug99, yellow rust and leaf rust — the release said. Some of those varieties also boost yields 10 to 15 percent, it said.

But significant obstacles must be overcome before the resistant new varieties of wheat can replace the susceptible varieties that make up as much as 90 percent of the wheat now in production, the researchers acknowledged. They called for more investments by wealthy countries and international institutions to continue developing the varieties, to help them keep them effective against diseases that continue to evolve, and to develop the seed production and distribution infrastructure needed to put the new varieties in the hands of poor farmers in developing countries.

The new strains mark a huge advance, said Marty Carson, research director at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cereal Research Laboratory at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.

“Anytime you can talk about a 15 percent boost in yields from existing varieties, I mean that’s phenomenal. And to get combined resistance to all three rusts, that’s also a very big deal,” said Carson, who wasn’t directly involved in that research. His lab, which is heavily involved in the fight against Ug99, is hosting the conference along with the University of Minnesota.

Carson pointed out in an interview that wheat farmers in the developing world that the Mexican institute known by its Spanish acronym CIMMYT is targeting with these new varieties don’t have many other options, such as fungicides, for dealing with threats such as rust. And while he was skeptical about the 15 percent claim, he said even a lower yield increase would be a major accomplishment.

The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative was launched five years ago by the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug in response to the Ug99 threat. Borlaug, an alumnus of the University of Minnesota, was a leader of CIMMYT. His research sparked the “Green Revolution” of the 1960s that transformed agriculture through high-yield, disease-resistant crops and other innovations, helping to more than double world food production by 1990. He’s credited with saving perhaps 1 billion people from starvation.

Ravi Singh, a wheat breeder at CIMMYT, helped lead the research on the new strains, which he’ll present at the conference and publish later this year in the Annual Review of Phytopathology. He said in an interview that the new varieties were developed through conventional crossbreeding, not genetic engineering. They have been tested successfully for disease resistance in Kenya and Ethiopia, where Ug99 is endemic, as well as at the USDA lab in St. Paul.

Donor-funded CIMMYT distributes its seed for free to keep it affordable, Singh said, and the new varieties will be planted in several countries for yield trials in the coming growing season in hopes they can enter widespread use in a few years.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • gphx

    Oh yay more diabetes for everyone!

    • martys

      where did that come from? did you pull that out of your butt?

      • rico suave

        martys do some research and learn that a diet with a high percentage of (usually simple) carbohydrates (think bread…) spike your blood sugar/insulin levels which can and does lead to diabetes. That’s why everyone and their mom is getting diabetes in the last 10 years because everything is made from wheat, soybeans, and mostly CORN. Get your learn on bud.

        • Michael Tonnery

          Actually, you should get your facts straight rico. Food does not cause diabetes – overweight and obesity causes Type 2 diabetes. If people would eat smaller portions and move around more, there wouldn’t be an issue.

          • Dan H

            It is refined wheat (endosperm only) that raises blood sugar levels. Unrefined, whole-grain wheat contains a lot of water-soluble fiber that clears bile out of the digestive tract and forces the liver to excrete more, which lowers total cholesterol (the major component of bile). This is why many “healthy breads” claim to have cholesterol lowering effects on their labels as part of their advertising.

            • Kelly

              Wheat is not native to the human diet, no matter how hard we genetically engineer it. Humans will never be able to process it with the same efficiency as items on a paleo diet such as nuts, fruits/vegetables, meats, fish, etc. We suffer the same problem with sugar, soy, corn, and other food “staples” that have been pushed on us because society decided they were food. They are cheap fillers that do not nourish our body because we lack the physiological capacity to process them effectively… hence the conversion of much of our food to body fat. Like animals with genetically specific diets (think pandas who can’t eat anything other than bamboo), just because we can eat it does not make it food.

              • Kathy Schneider

                Kudos for your post @Kelly.

              • Ken

                besides, you know how glucosamine and chondroitin is supposed to inhibit wheat germ agglutinin and reduce inflammation for the people affected by it (implying that for some people, there is no point to it)? Well guess what, easier solution is to simply not eat wheat. As Kelly says, we have not evolved to process wheat like we have our original foods. You need 10’s of thousands of years!

                Anyway.. stop eating so much bread, and you will become more healthy (let’s not argue of what that means OK?)

                What I am more interested in as it pertains to this article is how much more chemical input is required to get that 15% increase in yield? We keep seeing higher yielding hybrids that require, in some cases sure less area, but more fertilizer as well. It’s not sustainable if the land isn’t managed well, and everything I hear is that there is no attention being given to the long term consequences!!!

              • michael s

                Pandas can eat other food, they have even been seen eating animals. They have the same digestion as any other bear with the additions of microbes that break down bamboo. As it turns out, pandas get vey little nutritional value from bamboo, which is why they have to eat a lot of it, as they are “physiologically” not designed for it. Thier diet is 95-99% bamboo because they are inefficient predators and frankly the amount of time they spend eating bamboo to get what they need affords them little time to do anything else.

                Humans probably derive more from wheat than pandas do with bamboo. I still dont eat many wheat products because they are just not as good as other sources.

                I didn’t mean to pick apart your panda analogy, but it was just not based in fact.

          • Dan B

            Overweight and obesity are linked to diabetes but you forget that there are hundreds of thousands of non obese and non overweight people that have diabetes. So that isn’t the rule and you shouldn’t just push what health organizations claim without doing research. These are the same folks that claim aspartame and GMO roundup is good for us.

            • Joe H

              you do realize that “Roundup Ready” hybrids are nothing more than scientists taking strains of a plant that already show some resistance to the chemical and breeding them with other strains of the plants to get a final product that is fully resistant? It really is no different than bacteria becoming immune to antibiotics, just humans guide the process.
              But I guess there is the problem…humans, if only we could get rid of those parasites to make the world clean.

              • ok_bayou

                “final product” — are you referring to the “last straw?”

              • Michael s

                Round up ready are not selectively bred. They aren’t even fertile. They are genetically modified. I know people like to think it is the same thing, but it’s not. You can’t selectively breed say, an arctic flounder with a tomato, but you could pull a gene from the flounder and insert it into the tomato’s dna, so that it would not be mushy when frozen and thawed. It did not work the way they expected, but it was done.

                I would also venture to guess you are as big a parasite on the earth as any other human, if not more so.

          • Shoshana

            You’re kidding, right? Food doesn’t cause diabetes, but overweight does? Just HOW do you suppose someone got overweight in the first place? LIcking bark?

        • Hack

          Any time they genetically modify crops to “resist” anything it is HARMFUL to you. If it kills bugs or kills fungus it will also kill you moron. So since you are so high and mighty and smart why don’t you google the following and get ‘learn on “bud”

          Google: GMO Crops organ failure

          They sell it to us as we can feed more people etc..

          What they really want is a huge reduction in population globally.

          Diabetes is caused by… whats that… ORGAN FAILURE…

          So instead of treating people and looking down on them and showing your high intellect while saying it’s because a cracker tastes sweet after you chew it for a while and thts why you get diabetes well gphx is RIGHT and you my friend are ignorant to what is really going on here and not bright enough to understand what gphx was stating because you lack the basic fundamental knowledge of GMO crops and their effects on mamals.

          • Adam Wargacki

            Oh Wow. The hyperbole is killing me.
            “Any time they genetically modify crops to “resist” anything it is HARMFUL to you”.
            This kind of statement goes to show that you know nothing about genetics.
            Can you explain how EVERY genetic modification will have harmful effects on humans? Can you even list ONE genetic modification at all?
            Didn’t think so.

          • Bob Sloggin

            Yeah., better the world starve to death, you first.

          • mark abrams

            ridiculous. antibiotics kill bacteria and fungi but dont kill muticellular organisms because the cells (ribosomes and cell walls) of bacteria are different from those of humans . Similarly making wheat rust resistant doeant make the wheat poison.

    • Nate O

      No, not diabetes – More like infertility and smaller brains and even death. –

    • Adam Wargacki

      I would rather live with diabetes than starve to death without it.

    • Arthur Machado

      if it wasn’t for whaet half the population of the world would be starving. It is you gluten free nuts that are driving this insanity. Whet is an inexpensive way to produce quality calories.

  • CommonSense-33

    Anyone ever wonder if the skyrocketing rate of gluten intolerance is BECAUSE of GMO wheat?

    • Michael Tonnery

      This isn’t GMO. Did you skip 8th grade genetics?

      • Monsatan

        90+ percent of wheat grown is GMO so yes it probably is GMO. Did you miss the last 20 years?

        • Luka 15

          There is NO SUCH THING as GMO wheat. Traditional wheat breeding is not GMO.

          • Kelly

            The very nature of breeding is genetic modification whether you do it in a lab as a scientist or breed wheat crops with the intent of somehow altering the next generation. In that sense, almost everything in the world is somehow GMO from the person you choose to have kids with to the food we eat.

            • greg

              I’m shocked at how uninformed people are in regards to this topic. In 1980 there were 200 different types of wheat. Due to GMO, there are now only 5. Educate yourselves people, even the WHO put out a statement about this in 2009, and gluten intolerance is up 400%.

            • michael s

              Selectively breeding is just that, breeding. GMO’s, like roundup are modified at the genetic level, usually through bacteria, not another plant. Roundup ready crops are sterile, which is why farmers cant use part of thier harvest for replanting. They have to buy new seeds every year. You can’t breed a nonbreedable seed.

            • Adam Wargacki

              No, No, No.
              Go back to school.

              • marylou

                NO NO NO – Schools in Memphis are horrible- Many of the girls are pregnant – only a small number score enough to go to school. We’re dumbed down, Man

    • Kelly

      I’m gluten intolerant… also corn, soy and rice intolerant. It’s fun

  • JessyJensen

    Sounds like we’re headed for a future as described in the book “The Windup Girl”.

    • Dan

      I just read that book. Then to see blister rust in the headlines was kind of creepy. The book is definitely way over the top, and man made global warming is BS, but we still need to tread lightly on the fields of genetic history.

  • mikey

    If these people really want to help fight global hunger then they will end the rediculous Ethanol project. Turning corn into fuel is not only starving people to death, but it actually does ZERO to help in fuel consumption (It actually hurts it).

    End ethanol subsidies NOW!

    • Joe H

      actually ethanol doesnt starve people, basically they take some of the sugar out of the product to make alcohol with and then the rest goes to cattle.

      • caveman1

        you don’t see a problem with feeding cows corn when they evolved to eat grass? Corn-eating cow fat just stinks, really, try smelling it next to grass fed meat. It has a foul odor.

      • Adam Wargacki

        “actually ethanol doesn’t starve people”. Correct genius, but lack of food does.

  • JJC

    Perinnial wheat would be an achievement.

    • dave

      You hit the nail on the head!!!

      If perennial wheat yield improved I would accept the risks of GMO

      • HC

        You wouldn’t say that if you were chronically ill like I am. People always take their health for granted until they no longer have it.

        • Adam Wargacki

          Christ, stop eating wheat then. Leave some for the 2 billion starving and find some cashews.

  • Guest

    So many clever ways to kills us while looking like they want to save us.

  • coggieguy

    To the luddites commenting here- The reported resistance to rust was done by CONVENTIONAL breeding – NOT NOT NOT NOT GMO technology. Please read before engaging your keyboard.

    By the way, now is a good time to go into agriculture and not law school. There is a shortage of trained people in both academia and industry. Do you think all that food just magically appears????

    • JNCali

      They did NOT indicate the base strains they were using in their breeding process.. Why wouldn’t they be using ‘Round up Ready’ strains and just make them better ( in their eyes)?! Where is that Reset Button??


    A better idea is to quit making corn into ethanol.

  • doug

    you are correct!

  • jon

    the anti ethanol peopel do not know what they are talking about ethanol productions results in a higher quality corn feed by product that is far beter for cattle then corn also if you stop ethanol i hope you have a few kids gto send to the desert cus i have already lost my friend it is your turn so do you want your child to die over seas or do you want your child to work in a corn field …. your choice…. oh and about that cash you want to send to people that want to kill us in exchange for oil … lets keep that money here instead of building buildings in dubi

    • rico suave

      idiot. Keep drinking the Kool-Aid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • santa

      @ jon: Cattle should only eat grass. period. Cattle get sick from eating corn. Don’t be a big dummy.

      Ethanol production will not replace demand for oil. Stop giving that canard traction. That dog don’t hunt.

    • tl

      Not too bright are you? First, corn, in any form, is not good for cattle. Cattle are designed to eat grass, not to be force fed corn, a man-modified form of maize. Second, ethanol and ethanol subsidizes are two of the biggest scams in US history….lastly, ethanol will not end our reliance on foreign oil, only drill in North America will. Your rant is illogical and completely off-base. Sorry for your loss, but your are sadly mis-informed on this subject.

    • Adam Wargacki

      Don’t remember the exact numbers, but it takes like 120 units of diesel for every 100 units of ethanol produced through corn-ethanol fermentation. Not a good strategy. Corn ethanol will always be over 3$ per gallon. That’s not gasoline, thats ethanol, which is a crappy fuel.

    • ParaTrooper


      Because I’ve been to the middle east. Three tours in Afghanistan, and was slated to deploy to Iraq next, until I was wounded in combat and medically separated from the Army.

      Get this through your retarded head and STFU in advance next time something comes up, you retard: ONE GALLON OF ETHANOL FUEL REQUIRES ONE AND A HALF GALLONS OF REFINED GASOLINE TO PRODUCE!

      Ethanol does little to NOTHING to combat “global warming” or our dependance on foreign oil, moron.

  • mikey


    The US gets the majority of its oil from Canada and Mexico. If we could expand our domestic production, we wouldn’t need ANY oil from the Middle East.

    Ethanol is less productive than regular gas. Ethanol can’t be transported via pipeline so we need to truck it around with, surprise, trucks that use gas and diesel. Ethanol takes massive amounts of energy to be produced, thus eliminating any benefit it may have to fuel consumption. Finally ethanol is heavily subsidized. Without our taxes being funneled to farmers for ethanol production they would give it up. Now if we can get cellulose based ethanol going I would be more supportive. But for now corn based ethanol is nothing but a money wasting boondoggle.

  • Scientists: ‘Super’ Wheat To Boost Food Security « CBS Minnesota | Come To Jesus 2011

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  • Take care of yourself

    Grow your own food and/or buy locally, organically.

    • Luka 15

      Yeah, that works in Minnesota in January.

      You can’t be serious.

      • Sheeple

        Ever heard of food preservation? You kids today don’t know about anything in regards to food unless it’s on a label at Wal Mart.

      • Dan

        What the hell do you think people did 100 years ago? Heck, 50 years ago?


        • Kelly

          This is flat out unrealistic and an assault to the technological strides we’ve made in the last 100 years, not to mention all the jobs that are dependent on the food industry. My family made our money in food manufacturing and thrived during the recession. Believe me though, if i had the time and mom and dad gave me tons of money I’d probably be able to shop/eat local/organic etc.

        • RS

          How many billions more people do we have in the world today than 100 or 50 years ago thanks to the massive use of technology in agriculture.

          Without that tech, and the continued development of plant technology, billions would starve.

          Is that REALLY what you organic farming people are after?

          • Shoshana

            Actually, organic farming and permaculture produce more food per acre, that happens to be nutritious, than agribusiness does, and it does it without herbicides and pesticides.

    • Richard

      how do you survive? If you can’t buy outside your region, look around and see what’s grown and when. Try eating only locally and see how long you survive – last time I checked the grocery store food is seasonal / region oriented. Your not going to find “local” food except in a short window. Sounds like you are a student and/or city dweller who doesn’t understand the real world.

      • santa

        @ Richard: In my area I can buy locally. You just need to know where to shop.

        How did people survive 50 or 100 years ago? They bought locally and preserved food stuffs for the off season.

        • canman

          exactly.. learn canning, it’s really simple, and that’s how we did it, Richard.

  • jimmy

    Too bad the world will never use this product because of the GMO hysteria. They would rather starve their people to death.

  • Luka 15

    This is not GMO wheat. It is a variety that is bred through traditional methods.

    As for those of you referencing diabetes, wheat and grain based products don’t cause diabetes. Overeating without a requisite balance of energy expenditures lead to weight gain, which in turns leads to Type 2 adult onset diabetes. If more people ate smaller portions and exercised more, diabetes wouldn’t be an issue.

    In addition, there are still millions of people in this world that rely on wheat as the most basic form of sustenance. And if UG99 were to migrate to the world’s breadbasket in Russia, India, China, and then the U.S., it would cause mass panic, rioting, starvation and world unrest.

    So before you people start bitc*ing about GMO this or Diabetes that, consider for a second what you’re actually saying and for God’s sake – THINK a little bit.

    • GMOpoison

      Not true of course, you need to do some research. While diabetes is linked to obesity, there are still thousands upon thousands who are skinny and got diabetes will being skinny. My friends sister is 95lbs in weight and contracted type 2 diabetes.

      • Joe H

        well then maybe she needs to eat better…obviously I dont know the age/height here but being underweight is just as bad.

    • Jim

      “…and for God’s sake – THINK a little bit.” Excellent point.

  • dalemu

    Its not mentioned in this article, but I have heard that this new strain of wheat is harder for humans to digest than those currently in production and that it may also cause stomach irritation for some people. It seems like we fix one problem only to creat a new one.

    • Jim

      How authoritative, “…but I have heard that….” Do you have any other made-up drivel to add to this conversation?

  • Mel

    There are advantages and disadvantages to every new product. Because we can’t know the long-term effects of these products, they won’t take the years of research necessary for that, we can’t know the possible ill-effects til much later. If this product is saving wheat crops in Africa now, that’s good! But, once the potential threat of this fungus reaches our shores, will our government mandate to farmers the exclusive use of this product? If so, then the government will be regulating growth and consumption of yet another product. That means that any farmer who does not want to use this product will go bankrupt. Farmers in our country continually have their hands tied behind their backs because of gov. regulations. Remember how wonderful everyone thought antibiotics and hormones in feed was, that was until drug-resistant infections began surfacing in the population. I have a theory that our food is causing ADHD, ADD, and Autism, although I don’t have any proof, just a terrible feeling in my gut. So, how do we weigh short-term benefits against potential long-term harm? Can Africa risk the time and finances it would take to properly research this? Doubt it.

  • BillG

    All I’d like to know is who put the tribbles in the Quadratritacaelii.

  • OldGardenerGuy

    Improvements in yield sound like a great goal, but what about the nutritional value of the new wheat? I don’t have links or sources off the top of my head, but I’ve heard that many new & improved hybrid vegetables don’t supply the nutrients the old, boring open pollenated (sp?) varieties did/do. Of course I don’t really have any better solutions to feeding the billions and billions of people.

  • TManster

    Autism is probably caused by a genetic predispostion and then triggered by a immune response to a virus, just like type 1 diabetes.

    Gluten allergies may be linked to the the bleaching process. The US uses peroxide and the incidents are greater than Europe. Nothing to do with GMO.

    Ethanol is a waste of money. Just an exchange of petroleum for Ethanol. It today’s world — Money = Energy and ethanol is a loser in that exchange.

    Local food movement … while fun at restaurants and culturally significant, is silly economics. It fails to recognize the modern transport system where it can be less expensive and require less energy to ship an orange from Australia than to haul it to a farmers market. Our food cost directly correlates to energy costs.

  • Sk

    Wheat has been “revved” up in the past few decades, and the proteins are harder to digest. People with gluten intolerance (especially celiac) are more likely to have other autoimmune disorders because the gut is more permeable and toxins are released into the bloodstream rather than being eliminated. Cancer rates in celiac patients is 6x that of the general population.

  • ‘Super’ Wheat To Boost Food Security : Kevin Trudeau Show

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  • rob

    Just make sure that you guys keep the TRIBBLES away from this stuff this time!

  • UPDATE: Argentine lab clones cow to produce human-like milk... | Breaking News

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  • robert g

    I’m sure some environmentalist group will oppose it’s us based on some fraudulent data.

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