Document Type

Journal Article


Wheat is the world's second largest crop, supplies 19% of human calories, and is the largest volume crop traded internationally. Its uniquely malleable physical properties make it a valued industrial substance, albeit often an invisible one, as well as a food. This combination of transformation, invisibility and mobility demands new ways of thinking about wheat geographies. In this paper we document and analyse several 'moments' in the life of Australian wheat; at the supermarket, in the lives of coeliac sufferers, in laboratories, industrial factories and on the farm. We illustrate diverse patterns of interaction with wheat. The major plane of differentiation is between wheat as food and wheat as industrial substance. The explicit connection of food to the human body tends to fix the identity of wheat, whether as healthy staple of the nation, or harmful poison to coeliacs who must negotiate its presence using the regulatory regime of food labelling. This is no small task given the ubiquity of wheat; our survey of 10,235 supermarket items found it in 29.5% of labelled food items. In contrast, when wheat is physically and chemically disassembled to become an industrial substance, its presence and identity become mutable, hidden and often invisible. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.