WASHINGTON, June 17, 2015 – U.S. soybean growers say they are prepared to meet demand for healthier oils following the Food and Drug Administration’s determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) - the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods - are no longer “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).
In an announcement Tuesday, FDA gave food manufacturers three years to remove PHOs from their products. The American Soybean Association (ASA) said the compliance timeline will allow the soybean industry to ramp up production of high oleic soybean oil that can safely replace PHOs and highly saturated fats such as palm oil in many food applications. The United Soybean Board (USB) is tracking the availability of the genetically modified soybean variety in the U.S., as well as its anticipated growth.
By June of 2018, the food industry must replace the current use of PHOs in the marketplace, which USB estimates at between 2 and 2.5 billion pounds a year.
Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer have already developed varieties of high oleic soybeans, which produce an oil that food companies can use for stability without the need for partial hydrogenation. Farmers currently grow high oleic soybeans in nine states.
USB expects growers to plant 250,000 acres of high oleic soybeans this year, up from 170,000 acres last year. USB’s goal is to have 18 million acres of high oleic soybeans planted by 2023.
Richard Galloway, a USB consultant, said that one of the main things holding back production is import approvals from key export markets. He noted that the industry must have careful stewardship measures in place in order to avoid a trade disruption like the one in 2013, when China halted U.S. corn shipments due to detection of an unapproved biotech trait.
Both China and the European Commission have approved DuPont Pioneer’s Plenish high oleic soybean for import. Monsanto’s Vistive Gold variety is still awaiting China’s approval.
FDA had been considering removing the GRAS status of partially hydrogenated oils since late 2013. In earlier comments on the FDA proposed rule, ASA called on the agency to build in the time needed by the soybean industry to increase production of high oleic soybean varieties. In a release today, ASA President Wade Cowan said the association was concerned that without a suitable timeframe, food manufacturers would turn to competing oils such as palm oil.
“High oleic soybeans represent a key evolution in soybean farmers’ ability to meet the needs of our customers,” Cowan said. “But we’ve emphasized to FDA all along that we need the time to get the high oleic trait integrated into soybean varieties and approved in overseas markets so we can produce what the industry demands.”
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