Last fall, Pioneer Hi-Bred teamed up with The Soyfoods Council and invited editors from five national food magazines to Des Moines, Iowa. Purpose was to get the food editors fired up about the benefits of soybeans and soybean oil in food. But specifically, Pioneer focused on Plenish, its high-oleic soybeans slated for commercialization in 2012.
At Pioneer's headquarters in Johnston, Iowa, Russ Sanders, director, DuPont enhanced oils venture, said "for the last 15 years bio-technology has focused on traits in soybeans such as herbicide resistance, which primarily benefit farmers. But now with the ability to develop output traits in soybeans there is a link consumers can identify with."
"There is a lot of anticipation in the food industry for this product," added Susan Knowlton, DuPont research manger, ag biotechnology. "Plenish is the first biotech trait in soybeans that directly addresses the needs of today's consumer." Those traits include improved frying, shelf life, stability and flavor. Other benefits include zero trans fat, less saturated fat and the lack of additives.
Sanders said Pioneer is working its way through the regulatory process but they expect to bring Plenish soybeans to the market in 2012, upon full regulatory approval and field testing (Plenish high-oleic soybeans were deregulated by USDA in June 2010). "In the meantime, we are working with farmers and food companies on the benefits of Plenish soybeans. Farmers are primarily concerned about disease susceptibility and yield. We are working to communicate the benefits and opportunities growing high-oleic soybeans can provide their operations including improved yields from the high-oleic soybeans."
Benefits of soy
The food editors heard from Bill McCullough, Bunge Oils director of marketing. McCullough and his team support a wide product offering of trans fat free frying oils, shortenings, margarines, butter alternatives and cooking sprays.
"These new sustainable oils offer trans fat free options for the food service, food processor and bakery industries," he stated. "They have longer fry life."
Mark Messina, Nutrition Matters, a nutrition consulting company, talked about the health benefits of soy foods and debunked some of the myths surrounding soy. Messina is a former program director with the National Cancer Institute and while at NCI he initiated a research program on the anticancer effects of soy. "There is some evidence that soy can help reduce breast cancer," he noted. "Research has also shown a lower risk for prostate cancer among soy users. There is solid information that soy protein lowers cholesterol levels. At any rate, soy warrants a bigger role in the U.S. diet than it has had."
Messina said, "with the exception of a possible soy allergy, there is no reason everyone can't eat soy." He added, "some of the nutritional advantages of soyfoods include it is nutrient rich (nutrients/calories, it provides large amounts of high-quality protein, is low in saturate fat, high in polyunsaturated fat and is a source of omega-3 fatty acids)."
Chef Christopher Koetke, dean of the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College, talked about all the various products made from soybean oil and their uses in cooking and baking. "The world of soy has changed in the last year," he noted. "The soy industry is doing amazing things."
Koetke noted that soy can be used as an ingredient in any food. "It is an incredibly healthy and versatile food. It is 38% protein and contains all the amino acids for life. That's why it is considered a meat substitute."