Until 2010 wheat was the most produced and important cereal in the world, when it was ultimately surpassed by maize. Today it is ranked third, behind maize and rice, which altogether account for 89% of all cereal production worldwide. For a bread perspective, in Germany 20 million tons of wheat are harvested every year, with 5 million used to bake. In comparison, only 100,000 tons of rye are produced.
Genetically modified wheat is not commercially available in the US, nor the world, despite misleading statements from a variety of bread related businesses claiming to use non-GMO wheat. Although it has been under development since the 80’s, there has been much resistance as compared to corn and rice, the other two major cereal crops of the world.
Rather, wheat, such as any other crop, is the result of traditional selective breeding by farmers and scientists. Although the process of wheat hybridization has increased drastically since the green revolution (1930’s-60s), hand selection and the process of cross pollination has been occurring for 8,000-10,000 years.
Selective breeding of wheats really began when the romans selectively bred Einkorn (14-chromosome) to create Emmer (28-chr), to produce a softer, lighter, and sweeter flour. Yet Emmer had a husk which made the milling process difficult, so was further bred to create naked (huskless) bread wheat (42-chr) as well as spelt (directly related to bread wheat). This bread wheat has been further bred for traits such as drought tolerance, stalk height, kernel size, protein content, etc. etc.