Consumer demand for healthy foods is rising, and a non-GMO soybean variety containing high oleic trait technology could help meet those demands while also providing benefits to farmers.

The Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council is leading the charge to promote SOYLEIC, a high-oleic trait that could be used for high oleic soybean oil and meal.

Steve Schnebly, a consultant for MSMC, said the product is similar to the Plenish brand of high oleic soybeans, but is available as a non-GMO alternative.

The demand for high oleic soybean oil is growing significantly, he said. 

“I feel this is a tremendous opportunity for soybean farmers as well as downstream customers. We’re also looking at export opportunities as well,” Schnebly told Agri-Pulse.

Historically, soybean oil had to be hydrogenated to make it stable for frying applications, which created trans fatty acids. The Food and Drug Administration has banned the production of trans fats, which led to a greater need for high oleic soybean oils.

“Soybean oil contains about 25% oleic acid. High oleic soybean oil contains greater than 75% oleic acid, so it is very stable,” Schnebly noted.

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It also does not contain trans-fat and is already being used for frying and baking in kitchens across America to improve human and animal diets.

This effort is being funded by MSMC and United Soybean Board.

In a statement, USB Treasurer Meagan Kaiser underscored the trait's potential for building soybean demand.

“The reliability that U.S. soybean farmers provide can meet end-user demand, expand and strengthen market share in the food industry, and diversify their acres, furthering profitability on the farm,” she said.

Some 40,000 acres across 14 states have been planted with the non-GMO trait this growing season. According to MSMC, this is up from roughly 23,000 acres planted last year.

Researchers at land-grant universities as well private organizations are currently working to expand the trait to several soybean maturity groups that could be tailored for specific growing regions. 

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