Early research aimed at breeding gluten-free wheat variety; funded by Kansas farmers

IndustriesAssociated Press

New research funded by farmers aims to breed wheat for people who can't eat wheat and other grains, and comes amid booming consumer interest in gluten-free foods.

The Kansas Wheat Commission provided $200,000 for the first two years of a project to identify the wheat DNA that causes a reaction in people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which eating any gluten can damage the small intestine. That would theoretically let researchers breed celiac-safe wheat.

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U.S. consumers spent $973 million on products marketed as gluten-free in 2014 — driven in part by non-celiac sufferers intolerant to gluten or following fad diets.

Research supporters say it isn't an effort to regain market share. Some skeptical celiac experts say the research may, at best, lead to a less toxic wheat variety.