Adding More Value to the Soybean

Senators push for replacement of trans fat and companies are standing up to the plate ready to provide a healthier soybean. Jacqui Fatka

Published on: Oct 5, 2004

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now requiring trans fats be included on food labels beginning in January 2006. As a result, food manufacturers are looking for alternatives to reformulate their products and omit trans fats.

The simplest way to reduce trans fats may be to replace partially hydrogenated oils with saturated fats and oils, such as palm oil. However, replacements that are high in saturated fats are equally unhealthy. Several U.S. senators are urging FDA and the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to encourage the use of healthier alternatives that can be derived from soy, corn, sunflower, canola and other domestically-grown crops.

Between two to three billion pounds of the United States' 18 billion pounds soybean crop is at risk of being lost to replacement oils if a solution isn't found. Monsanto is teaming with Cargill and Ag Processing Inc (AGP) to offer a low-linolenic soybean variety, VISTIVE, for the 2005 planting year that produces a low or no-trans fat soybean to meet the needs of the food industry that is already beginning to change to alternatives.

Earlier this summer Monsanto announced a low-linolenic soybean that is a more stable soybean oil, with less need for hydrogenation. Soybeans with a lower linolenic acid level, such as Monsanto's VISTIVE line, reduce the need for partial hydrogenation. Their application in processed soybean oils will reduce the presence of trans fats in processed soybean oil.

For the 2005 growing season, Cargill will be contracting with Iowa growers for up to 50,000 acres of VISTIVE soybean production. Cargill will pay a 25 cent premium to producers who grow VISTIVE soybeans under contract, then it will crush and sell the processed soybean oil to food companies. AGP will contract another 50,000 growers and offer the same premium.

Monsanto's new trait will not require growers to give up yield or agronomic traits to take advantage of compositional advantages that offer a premium. Asgrow will market VISTIVE with the Roundup traits.

"Right now, research being done by private companies and at universities such as Iowa State University are producing varieties of crops that could produce healthier food oils," says Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who was a cosigner of the letter sent to the HHS and FDA. "This research could eliminate the need for hydrogenated oils and lead America to a healthier future. I strongly urge FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services to seize on this opportunity to make great strides in improving America’s diets and health."

In addition to Harkin, the letter was signed by Senators Bond, R-Mo., Conrad, D-ND, Talent, R-Mo., Dorgan, D-ND, Fitzgerald, R-Ill., Pryor, D-Ark., Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Durbin, D-Ill., Brownback, R-Kan., and Chambliss, R-Ga.