How is it with soya?
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How is it with soya?

Soya gets in a focus of attention for two reasons: it is the most common "genetic contamination" in food to a great joy of "activists" and some journalists who can document their vigilance as "protectors" of consumers. Then, soya prepared an embarrassing dilemma to the Greens in Europe: what they should decide for - bone meal or modified soya. Both are bad for their popularity.

That is why let us briefly remember several facts without comments:


Soya (Glycine max) originated in China, where it was mentioned already 4500 ago. In Southeast China, it was domesticated probably in 11th century BC. It was established in West Europe in the 18th century AD.

Soya spreads only from seeds. Maturing of seeds depends on a length of day; and because it is a short-day plant, it is improbable that freely growing soya could mature in the conditions in CR. Seeds do not have a dormant period, therefore when they mature they start to germinate already in autumn. Sprouted plants do not survive frost. A risk of uncontrollable spreading in the Central European conditions is practically zero. Soya has a little competitive capacity; therefore a risk of oppressing the native flora is negligible.

Genus Glycine is the only from the family of fabaceous, which has a diploid number of chromosomes 40 or 80. Soya can crossbreed (2n = 40) only with other species of the genus, for example with G. soja or G. gracilis, which grow in Northeast China, Thai-wan, Japan and Korea. Cultural soya is usually self-pollinating, only in 0.03 to 3.62 % blossoms are cross-pollinating by pollen transported mainly by bees was found. A 10 m wide isolation proved in tests to be sufficient to prevent crossbreeding. In European flora, there is no relative plant that could crossbreed with soya.

As food

In USA, it was grown since 1765, originally as feed and silage. After it was successfully used as an oil-plant in 1900 till 1910, an interest in it was rising in the USA, but it was still mainly grown as feed. A basic bred cultivar was introduced in 1940, and since then an intensive cultivation goes on and soybeans get in food ever more broadly.

As a part of food, soya is appreciated for balanced contents of amino acids, and also as a stock for oil production. Nevertheless it contains also many antinutrients. Some are eliminated by heat, some are not. An inhibitor of trypsine and lectin agglutinating red blood cells, belongs to the former ones. Phytoestrogenes as genistein, daidzein and coumesterol belong to the latter ones. Soybeans also contain sugars stachyose and raffinose, which may cause intestinal problems to sensitive persons. A phytate binds calcium and magnesium in food, and may cause a lack of their bioavailable from. The most important is a presence of allergens: in soya there were found several proteins, which react with antibodies IgE in persons sensitive to soya. In USA, they identified this way 9 different proteins, in Japan it was even 15 proteins.

Growing and import

Crops in a typical production area in USA:Max 50 bu/acre = 3,36 t/ha
Medium 40 bu/acre = 2,7 t/ha


Area GM mil. ha1,711,027,839,944,2
Area soya mil. ha0,55,014,821,625,8
Crops mil. t1,3513,54058,370

Since 1996: 183 mil. t genetically modified soya were harvested.

A balance of the international trade with soya (beans, products) in EU (thousands t)

Production of EU9079781 5781 843
Import15 21214 31314 18913 948
Available16 09415 26315 70915 765
Self-sufficiency %661012
Self-sufficiency - flour %3466
Self-sufficiency - oil %791518

World market from perspective of substitution of bone flours

Among pulses, peas and beans could provide a source of proteins. Because their protein lacks some necessary amino acids, they should be prepared by fermentation and supplemented. For such a solution, peas and beans would need to be grown on 2 million ha only in Germany, which is 12 times bigger area than the present one and one sixth of all the arable land. A little amount of feed peas could be gotten from Canada (about a million t), but anyway peas and beans are not a realistic solution.

Rape has lower content of protein, which is of lower quality. It also provides less (60%) feeding flour than soya (80%). To substitute bone flour, Europe would have to grow 6 million tons of rape extra. Imported and grown rape would have to be processed into oil, which would greatly increase the price of feed and a possible surplus production of oil.

Soya is, in the necessary amount, available on world markets. Soya flour contains 44-48% protein, which is only a bit less than bone flour (50-55%). Its growing in Europe has a little perspective for climatic reasons. Overall year production of soya is about 150 million tons. One third is genetically modified. This share is in USA 54%, in Argentina 80-90%, and in Brazil it is 15-20% despite the fact it was officially forbidden to use modified seeds in Brazil, such seeds are smuggled from Argentina and Paraguay.

EU imports 14 million tons of soya every year from USA, Brazil and Argentina, which are the main world producers. About 3 million tons out of that is processed into oil, and the rest is used as a part of feeds and food. Further 14 million tons is imported directly as a soya flour for feeds. Total import represents about 1,1 billion USD.

Legislative situation in EU

Variety of soya RR 40-3-2 was assessed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Food in Great Britain. An Advisory board for New Food and Processes (ABNFP) finalises its assessment of 6 January, 1995 this way: "There are no reasons from viewpoint of food safety, why this product should not be used as food." "Genetically modified soya and products made of it are comparable with non-modified soya and equally safe for consumption by man."

Variety of soya RR 40-3-2 was permitted by an EC Directive 96/281/EC of 3 April, 1996, where an article 2 says: "The approval includes all the progeny obtained by cross-breeding of this line with any traditional line of soy." And further, an article 3: "This approval includes the following manipulation: manipulation in environment during import, before and during storage, before and during processing into non-living products."

According to the present reports, soya 40-3-2 import permit is expected in Poland in the beginning of January.

Genetical modification of a variety permitted in EU

An insert implemented into variety 40-3-2 includes:

bullet610 bp - P-E35S promotor from virus of cauliflower mosaic. 35S promotor is a part of mosaic of cauliflower (CaMV). This virus attacks plants belonging to the family Brassicaceae. It is cauliflower, cabbage, borecole, kohlrabi, broccoli and other forms of the genus Brassica. In nature, feeds and human food this promotor is naturally present.
bullet230 bp - Sequence from Petunia hybrida coding a peptide of transportation into chloroplast.
bullet260 bp - NOS 3' terminal sequence, that is non-translated area coding nopalin synthetase from Agrobacterium tumefaciens.
bullet1360 bp - Sequence coding an enzyme 5-enolpyrovylshikimate-3-phosphate synthetase (EPSPS) from bacterium CP4 identified as Agrobacterium sp.

Thence it follows that it concerns sequences, which occur normally in nature. There is no risk of them being spread by any horizontal transmission. A man normally meets Agrobacterium in food and in dust, one breathes. Soya does not contain any gene coding an antibiotics resistance.

Testing of new proteins

New proteins create at maximum 0,1% total proteins of soybeans. A digestibility test proved their half-life to be about 15 to 20 minutes. They do not contain sugar element and do not react with IgE of persons allergic to soya. Their structure is not homologous to any known allergen.

They were tested in feed tests with mice, sewer rats, quails, fish and cows. No documented difference from control non-modified soya was detected.

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