|By KEVIN WALKER
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring food manufacturers to put trans-fat information on their labels at the start of the year, prompting companies and producers to accelerate the production of low-linolenic, or low-lin, soybean oil.
Low-lin soybeans are used to greatly reduce the amount of trans-fats in food products that contain soybean oil. Low-lin soybeans can contain less than 3 percent linolenic acid, compared with 8 percent for traditional soybeans.
“It’s trans-fat labeling as a whole, that’s been the catalyst,” said Chris Horner, a spokesman for Monsanto, the maker of Vistive, a low-lin soybean oil.
“The low-lin trait has been around for quite some time,” Horner said. “We announced in 2004 that we would begin commercial planting in 2005, and that’s pretty much what happened.”
The Kellogg Company announced last month it would begin using low-lin soybean oil in some of its food products starting sometime this year.
The company is partnering with Monsanto by using Vistive, and is using another brand of low-lin soybean oil from the Bunge/Dupont Biotech Alliance, called Nutrium.
“We need to change our product to meet consumer demands, and one of those demands is to have less trans-fatty acids,” said Dave Schmidt, a former member of the United Soybean Board, and current board member of Qualisoy, a soybean industry group.
Schmidt grows 1,000 acres of soybeans near Iowa City, Iowa. Half of those acres are ultra-low-lin soybeans, which contain less than 1 percent linolenic acid.
Low-lin soybean oil oxidizes more slowly than regular soybean oil, and therefore lasts longer in deep fryers, Schmidt said.
“We’re starting to get a lot of restaurants around here using low-lin oil,” he said.
In 2005 farmers planted about 200,000 acres of low-lin soybean varieties. Nearly a million acres are expected to be planted in 2006 to meet the anticipated demand for low-lin soybean oil. More will be needed to replace the more than 5 billion pounds of traditional soybean oil used annually in the United States, according to Qualisoy.
Schmidt said that, when he started growing low-lin soybeans two years ago, he had to go back to using conventional herbicide programs.
“That’s all part of the challenge to what we’re doing,” he added.
Schmidt touted Asoyia, a branded ultra-low-lin soybean oil owned by 25 farmers in southeast Iowa.
Schmidt said the group is trying to expand outside of its current area.
He said the group uses a strict protocol for Asoyia’s production, which means “we can verify what herbicides were used on it.”
Approximately 400 million pounds of low-lin oil could be available to the food industry nationwide by the end of this year.
Monsanto anticipates increasing its production of Vistive soybeans from 100,000 acres in 2005 to 500,000 this year. Vistive seeds are available through Monsanto’s Asgrow brand, as well as from an additional 11 brands, including HiSoy, LG Seeds, Producers, Midwest, Crows, NC+, Kruger, Stine, Latham’s, Prairie Brand and Croplan.
Vistive soybeans were available in Iowa only in 2005, but are now available in southeastern South Dakota, southern Minnesota and southern Michigan.
As for Kellogg, it’s not yet clear which of its products will contain low-lin soybean oil, but the company is a major producer of cookies, crackers, toaster pastries, cereal bars, frozen waffles and other products that contain soybean oil.
Published in the January 25, 2006 issue of Farm World.