DuPont produces versatile new soybean oil

By Chris Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soybean oil, Trans fat, Dupont

A new soybean oil trait that can deliver improved nutritional
benefits and is more versatile than tradition soybean oil products
has been created by DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred unit.

According to the company, new oil testing results have confirmed that the high oleic soybean oil trait contains at least 80 per cent oleic acid, significantly increasing the stability of the oil when used in frying and food processing. This, DuPont said, meant that the oil did not need to be hydrogenated and that it thus contained only "negligible"​ amounts of trans fats. "We are breaking ground on a new oil product that will bring more nutritional benefits to consumers and better performance to the food industry,​" said William S. Niebur, vice president of DuPont's crop genetics research and development division. "These positive research results bring us one step closer to delivering the first biotech product with direct consumer benefits." ​The company has not released full details of the tests it has conducted, but Niebur said that, in addition to its apparent nutritional and functional benefits, the high oleic soybean oil also presents opportunities for transportation and industrial applications. "The oil's high stability will allow companies to develop renewable, environmentally sustainable options to petroleum-based products,"​ he said. In addition to delivering at least 80 per cent oleic acid, the high oleic soybean oil trait has consistently demonstrated a linolenic acid content of less than three per cent, and over 20 per cent less saturated fatty acids than commodity soybean oil, DuPont claims. The oil will be available to food companies for testing following the 2008 growing season. This will allow food industry customers to conduct independent high oleic soybean oil testing in advance of commercial quantities being available after the 2009 soybean harvest, the company added. The oil, which will be sold under the Treus brand, is still subject to regulatory approval from the US authorities, while an application to sell the oil in the EU was made last June. Europe remains opposed to most biotech crops - although DuPont and its biotech partner Bunge are not looking to grow the genetically modified soybeans in the EU - and while approval to sell the oil there may well be granted by the European food safety authority (EFSA) the realistic chances of any commercialisation of Treus soybean oil in the European union remains slim. In the US, however, consumers are more concerned about the risk posed by trans fats than any potential harm that might be caused by GM crops, prompting companies such as DuPont and Bunge to invest heavily in research into new strains of oilseeds that can be used instead of hydrogenised oils. Hydrogenation of oils, essentially turning them into semi-solids, gives them a higher melting point and extends their shelf life, making them better suited for use by the food industry. Hydrogenated fats have been widely used by food producers for a century, but fears about their trans fat content - and the risk to health that these can cause - have prompted companies to begin looking for alternative oils that provide the same function without the attendant dangers. Trans fats have been linked to health risks as diverse as cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer, and the growing level of scientific evidence supporting their adverse impact on health has led to well-publicised bans in New York City restaurants, and to other cities, like Boston and Chicago, considering similar measures.

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