October 30th, 2006
Soybean Secrets

Out of the trans fat and into the genetically modified soybean oil.

During Austin’s heated debates over banning smoking in bars and require helmets on bicyclists (in a state where it is legal for motorcyclists to go without), people often ask tongue-in-cheek, if the Daddy State will start outlawing Mexican food because it’s bad for us po littl’ citizens who aren’t adult enough to take responsibility for our actions.

Well, take your tongue out of your cheek because if any city is likely to follow New York City’s attempt to outlaw trans fat in restaurant food, it’s Austin.

One positive story coming out of the trans fat controversy is today’s story that KFC (the restaurant that changed it’s name because its middle name is FRIED) has abandoned hydrogenated fats in favor of soybean oil.

That’s good news right? Not so fast. Read further down the article and you’ll discover restaurant owners are worried that the demand for soybean oil might outpace the supply. And who is the supplier? Why Monsanto Corp and its magic beans.

Dedrick said KFC and the creator of the new oil, the Monsanto Corp., had to work with seed oil processors to persuade farmers to grow more of the special soybeans used in the product. Among other things, farmers were offered a price premium to grow the new soybeans.

Monsanto spokesman Chris Horner said he expected the farmland devoted to the company’s new seed to triple next year to 1.5 million acres, up from 500,000 acres this year and 100,000 in 2005.– (Emphasis mine.)

Let’s see…replace “special soybeans” with “genetically-modified soybeans” and you might get the feeling that the reporter is guilty of lies of omission. As of 2002, nearly 70% of US soybeans were grown from genetically modified seeds.

The new soybean, dubbed VISTIVE produces a low-linolenic soybean oil. This new soybean is being offered to American farmers first. As Monsanto’s Executive Vice-President explained on March 3, 2006…

“We will continue to grow our global business, but we cannot forget that U.S. agriculture is the foundation of our success,” Casale said. “In this country we have the benefit of serving the most technologically advanced farmers, who appreciate innovative new products. Because of this, we can offer U.S. farmers some unique advantages as we all strive to compete globally.”

Japan and the EU won’t import them but it looks as if Monsanto has a new market for its product state-side.

In other dubious news for farmers, Monsanto genetically modified seed is patented and it sues American farmers who save a portion of their crop for seed. They are also suing farmers who don’t even grow Monsanto products if pollen from neighboring GM-planted fields contaminates a field by cross-pollinating with a non-GM crop; this pollution is considered patent infringement.

by M Sinclair Stevens

2 Responses to post “Soybean Secrets”

  1. From Annie in Austin:

    Well, M, thanks for giving us something really scary for Halloween! The KFC thing means nothing to me personally – haven’t gone there in decades, but the forced soybean growing is another matter.

    And that last link? In essence the Monsanto GE canola Pollen has raped the farmer’s canola plants [appropriately called rapeseed] and the court said the farmer must not only lie back and enjoy it but also pay the molester for the privilege?

    Because this article dated from 2001, I googled around and found a site with the farmer speaking: http://www.percyschmeiser.com/conflict.htm

    Looks like a 2004 appeal held up Monsanto’s rights, but didn’t make Schmeiser pay, so the core issue is still upheld.

    In November Percy Schmeiser will be speaking in Berkeley, California, along with Michael Pollen and controversial Berkeley Professor Ignacio Chapela.


    Very interesting, M, thanks.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  2. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    Sometimes I really wonder about our justice system. I’d heard about the lawsuits over unintended pollination—totally crazy!