The soybean industry is reportedly searching out government approval of a genetically modified soybean that produces oil lower in saturated fat, offer consumers a healthier alternative to foods containing trans fats and also increase demand for growers’ crops.
Demand for soybean oil has dropped sharply since 2005, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring labels to list levels of trans fats that have largely been linked to coronary heart disease.
Agribusiness mogul Monsanto Co. says that oil from its new soybean will meet manufacturers’ requirements for baking and shelf life with no hydrogenation.
The FDA approved the new bean, called Vistive Gold and Monsanto and several state and national soybean groups are seeking approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
U.S. farmers harvested more than 3.3 billion bushels of soybeans valued at about $39 billion in 2010.The Iowa Soybean Association, however, said in a letter to APHIS that the industry’s share of the food oil market dropped from 83 percent to 68 percent after the FDA enacted the labeling requirements. The state of Iowa now grows more soybeans than any other state.
Industry officials believe Vistive Gold could speak for as much as 60 cents more per bushel than other soybeans, raising a farmer’s income by thousands of dollars.
Jim Andrew, who grows 625 acres of conventional soybeans near Jefferson, Iowa, says that he hopes Vistive Gold soybeans also will reduce consumers’ fears about biotech crops by providing a direct health benefit. Most genetically modified crops so far have been engineered to battle pests and increase harvests for farmers.
Back in 2005 the St. Louis-based Monsanto introduced the first generation of the bean known as Vistive to reduce or eliminate trans fats. Vistive Gold retains such qualities and offers lower levels of saturated fat and higher levels of monounsaturated fats.
Vistive Gold will make a huge difference in efforts to produce healthier foods. For example, he said it could produce French fries with more than 60 percent less saturated fat.
Vistive Gold and other engineered crops don’t face rigorous enough testing. No animal feeding trials were conducted on the new soybean to see what would happen when it was consumed, he said.
Monsanto said it extensively examined Vistive Gold finding it to be very safe. A notice posted in June on the website for
APHIS said its assessment of Vistive Gold indicated that the bean was not a risk to other plants.
The federal government has a stringent and effectual procedure for reviewing genetically modified crops.