Canada approves high oleic acid GM soybeans

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Oleic acid Trans fat Fat

Canada approves high oleic acid GM soybeans
Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have approved a high oleic acid genetically modified (GM) soybean for cultivation and foods containing the oil could hit the market by 2010, says DuPont.

The high oleic trait, developed by DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred unit, means the resultant soybean oil consists of 80 percent oleic acid, more than three times the amount present in ordinary soybean oil. High levels of oleic acid have been shown to remove the need for hydrogenation, a process that increases stability and shelf life, but results in the creation of harmful trans fats.

Pioneer president and DuPont vice president and general manager Paul Schickler said: “This is a significant milestone in our effort to bring the high oleic soybean trait to market. We’re seeing strong results in field testing of soybeans with the high oleic trait and strong interest from food companies looking for a new oil product with improved nutritional qualities and performance characteristics.”

In the US, the trait is still being reviewed by the US Department of Agriculture but the variety will be field tested in Canada this year, with the potential for products containing the soybean oil to be released on the market from next year.

A spokesperson for DuPont told that it is working with “all the major oilseed processors”​ and has seen strong interest in the ingredient from food manufacturers.

Increased stability

The company claims that the high levels of oleic acid “significantly increase” ​the oil’s stability in food processing and frying, meaning it does not break down as quickly.

In addition to delivering at least 80 percent oleic acid content, DuPont said the high oleic trait has also demonstrated a 20 percent reduction in saturated fatty acids and the oil contains “negligible amounts” ​of trans fats.

“Soybeans are grown on more acres than any other oilseed crop in North America, making high oleic soybeans a cost-effective solution,”​ the company said.

Trans fat fears

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 trans fats – and the risk of coronary heart disease that these can cause – have prompted companies to look for alternative oils that provide the same function without the attendant dangers.

The company said it has planned or already made regulatory submissions to major soybean-importing countries. Attitudes to GM crops vary around the world, with people in the US, Canada and Japan generally positive about their use, while Europeans tend to hold a more negative view, according to research from Royal Society of Chemistry and Institute of Chemical Engineers.

In North America, consumers’ concerns about trans fats have led to companies investing heavily in researching new strains of oilseeds that can be used in place of hydrogenised oils.

DuPont added that the oil could have applications beyond food.

“The oil’s high stability in industrial settings will allow companies to develop renewable, environmentally sustainable options to petroleum-based products,”​ it said.

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