A collaboration yesterday announced by biotech company Monsanto could result in the establishment of an analytical standard for heart-healthy soybean oil.
The firm's work with FOSS, which provides analytical instruments for the food, agricultural, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, is designed to develop tools to measure the specific components in soybean grain.
The first product in the collaboration is a calibration system used to measure the linolenic acid content of soybeans in order to identify grain that, when processed, will provide food companies an oil that does not require hydrogenation, said Monsanto.
"Industry standards for measuring low-linolenic content help make products available which can reduce trans-fat in consumer diets without burdensome time and cost constraints for the industry," said Pradip Das, Monsanto crop analytics.
Linolenic acid, which is generally found at high levels in most soybeans, reduces the shelf life and stability of products made from soy oil. To overcome this problem, soy oil is often partially hydrogenated to reduce linolenic acid levels. But this, in turn, produces artery-clogging trans fatty acids.
Plant breeders such as Monsanto have responded by tackling the problem in the bean, in order to eliminate the need for hydrogenation. The firm's Vistive low-linolenic soybeans claim to reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids in soybean oil.
According to Monsanto, the new calibration system, which is used in near infrared grain analyzers, includes software that has been developed over two years, by accumulating data from commercialized industry low linolenic soybean products, including Vistive soybeans.
The system claims to allow grain elevators to more easily distinguish low-linolenic soybeans from commodity soybeans.
Monsanto said the new calibration assures that soybean processors receive only soybean grain meeting the linolenic acid level specifications that would yield a trans-fat free vegetable oil.
According to John Becherer, CEO of industry group Qualisoy, the new tool is an "analytical standard for the industry to help bring healthier soybean oil to the market".
"Creating an industry standard for measuring soybean components is important to accurately measure the increasing component value of soybeans," he said.
The software will be used both at the processor level and in Monsanto's Crop Analytics Mobile Labs, which aim to serve as a supplementary tool where processors need additional analytical support.
Monsanto said the next steps of its collaboration with FOSS will be to identify analytical tools needed to measure other grain metrics or grain characteristics which are in demand for the food, feed and fuel industries.