With the proliferation of Genetically Modified Organisms hitting the market, I was wondering, if one modified wheat so that it could not leaven, could it be used to make matzah?


Other than for Passover, I can’t imagine much of an incentive to create wheat that doesn’t rise. But whether or not such wheat will ever be developed, your question is a fascinating one!

When discussing the mitzvah of eating matzah on Passover, the Torah tells us, “You shall not eat leaven with it [the Passover offering]; for seven days you shall eat with it matzah . . .”1

The Talmud explains that since the prohibition of eating leaven is juxtaposed with the command to eat matzah, one can only fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah on Passover night with matzah that is made of grains that can potentially leaven (i.e., wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats). Dough made from other grains (such as rice) may appear to be rising, when in fact the grains are turning rancid and and are in the process of spoiling.2

Most commentaries explain that the Talmud is not only telling us what types of grain can be used, but it is giving a specific requirement: The mixture of grain and liquid used for the matzah must be susceptible to leavening, while at the same time, it can’t have become chametz. If it doesn’t meet this criteria, it can’t be used to fulfill the obligation on Passover night.3 4

This is in line with what we say in the Haggadah:

This matzah that we eat, for what reason? Because the dough of our fathers did not have time to become leavened before the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them.

In other words, the matzah is something that could have become chametz, but didn’t.

Based on this, it would be problematic to use GMO non-chametz wheat for the matzah at the Passover Seder.

Although your question is theoretical at the moment, the answer has practical implications. For example, see Can I Have Gluten-Free Matzah on Passover?

There’s a lot more to Passover matzah than simply a baked flour-and-water mixture that did not leaven. Ideally, one should use hand-made shemurah matzah, at least for the Seder night. To learn more about shemurah matzah, see A Tale of Two Matzahs: Why Shemurah Matzah? and The Difference Between Shmurah Matzah and Regular Matzah

You can order handmade shemurah matzah here.