by Christopher Arnett
Native Foods Cafe
Monsanto, the high-profile and controversial biotechnology corporation that currently dominates the U.S. market for genetically engineered seeds, is currently seeking approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for it’s new GMO soybean. It seems ever since demands by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2005 for labels listing levels of trans fats, demand for soybean oil really took a hit. As many people know, vegetable oil does not naturally contain trans fats, but hydrogen is added to make it suitable for the food industry (by increasing shelf life and refrigeration requirements), thus creating trans fats. Monsanto’s solution to this decline in demand is a GMO soybean that apparently is free of trans fat, yet will still meet requirements by manufacturer’s for baking and shelf life. Doesn’t sound so bad, too far (but Monsanto does have an undeniably long and sordid legal past, which a quick Internet search will pull-up).
Well, the FDA has already approved Monsanto’s soybean (named Vistive Gold) earlier this year. The next step in the process before mass marketing is the US Department of Agriculture. And it’s not just Monsanto putting on the pressure, but several state and national soybean groups, as well. Iowa, which grows the most soybeans of any state, was hardest hit by the FDA labeling requirements in 2005. Interestingly, a lot of the soybean oil not used in the food industry in the years following 2005 was sold as biodiesel. Unfortunately, farmers got less money than if they had sold the oil to the food industry. Wouldn’t it be nice if our government took more of an interest in sustainable fuel sources and actually subsidized the manufacture of biodiesel? One can only dream.
Biodiesel cars are awesome! Besides a bike, or your two feet, the perfect transport to delicious vegan food at Native Foods Cafe.
So let’s see about both sides of the issue. In a Huffington Post article, one Iowa soybean farmer stated that he hopes the new GMO soybean will help dispel consumer fears by providing a direct health benefit to them, as opposed to benefitting farmers like most other GMO crops (resistance to disease, higher yield, etc.). According to Monsanto, the new oil will not only be lower in saturated fat, but higher in levels of the healthy monounsaturated fat. However, Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety, has not undergone proper testing. Namely, that no animal testing was done (yikes!). Pardon my ignorance, but can’t scientists predict any harmful results by examining the soybean prior to consumption? Of course, there will be some degree of unknowable results, but is it too such a degree that this food could be considered dangerous? I mean, supposedly it was just the fat content of the soybean that was modified. How bad could that be? Freese goes on to say that the oddly enough, the FDA approved the Monsanto soybean based on reviews of another similar soybean from another company. So the FDA did not actually approve this particular GMO soybean? That is cause for concern, in my opinion. Isn’t it worth the testing?
No Vistive Gold Soy Beans in Native Foods Cafe's kitchen!
Well, if you feel like staying out of the thick of the controversy for now, Native Foods Café does not use any GMO products in any of our food. But who knows? Maybe one day there will be a product that is indisputably safe that health food devotees and vegans will readily embrace. When scientific innovation is handled in a responsible and ethical manner, the results can be truly life-changing. Only time will tell on which side of the fence the GMO issue will land.