Monday, February 14, 2011


Soybean oil is one of the major edible oils that dominates the global market. As an industrial fat it undergoes hydrogenation to generate solid and semi-sold fats with different melting point features suiting various applications in food industry. There was a time when hydrogenated fat products ruled the food world used practically in every processed food available in the market. How ever the "arrival" of trans fats on the safety front changed the situation dramatically with almost all sectors shunning their use for fear of offending the consumers. Trans fats are implicated in heart related diseases, similar to saturated fats and food scientists have been searching for acceptable and safe alternatives having similar functional properties without the presence of this offending substance. Fractionation techniques, interesterification process and similar technological approaches more or less have made hydrogenation a redundant technology, shunned by the food industry.

Amongst the frying oils Soy oil loses out to others like peanut oil, canola, coconut oil, corn oil etc because of its vulnerability to fast oxidation and consequent rancidity and polymerization leading to unacceptable changes in the properties due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures as encountered during frying. Cost consideration has pitchforked Soy oil as a major input material for catalytic hydrogenation and till the trans fat dangers surfaced it had practically no rival. The dynamics of oil trade changed causing a steep decline in the fortunes of Soy oil and it is estimated that due to sluggish demand Soy oil lost as much as 27% in its price during 2009 alone. Added to these woes, most of the Soy oil produced in the US is derived from the GM sources, unacceptable to many countries. Against such a background, relentless efforts were being made by the American Soy oil industry to revive its fortunes by exploring new uses for the oil which has resulted in developing a new variety of bean that contains higher proportion of oleic acid, more stable and can be used in place of hydrogenated fats by the food processing industry as being claimed by its developers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) "not only will high oleic Soybeans help provide a healthier alternative for consumers, they also will help increase demand for U.S. Soybean oil". So the main idea is to boost business for the American Soy beans, the nutritional consideration being secondary. Whether the high-oleic Soybean varieties could help the U.S. Soybean industry regain its lost edible oil market share is a question only time will tell. The US Soy bean Board which funded the development of new versions based on two high-oleic Soybean genes also is singing the same tune that the oil from high-oleic soybeans is healthier than partially hydrogenated vegetable oils because it requires no hydrogenation, a process that leads to trans fats. High-oleic oil also is also supposed to contain about 25 percent less saturated fat than Soybean oil processed from traditional soybeans. What is galling in these claims is the effort to down grade high-stability fats and oils, such as palm, that contain high levels of saturated fats.

In spite of such new approaches. Soybean oil can never be able to compete with edible oils like palm oil unless the western farmers are heavily subsidized by their governments. The fact still remains that it is not necessary to go through the GMO route to change the composition of an oil like that from Soybean to suit food industry when available technologies can convert conventional oils into fractions with any desired melting characteristics. If American consumers are so wedded to Soybean oil, they may have no choice but to accept the new GM version with all the claims being made by its promoters. But for others there are plenty of choices to go for and they do not need a GMO source.

Don't pick lemons.
See all the new 2007 cars at Yahoo! Autos.

No comments: