ST. LOUIS -- U.S. soybean farmers face great challenges and even greater opportunities in the coming years due to the need to cut trans fats out of foods by supplying healthier varieties of soybean oil.

Soybean oil represents a 17-to-18-billion-pound market each year in the United States. Recently, the food industry has recognized the need to replace the 7 to 8 billion pounds of oil that is partially hydrogenated. The process of hydrogenation forms trans-fatty acids, which scientists recognize to be an unhealthy variety of fatty acid.

"Farmers now have a great opportunity to grow varieties of soybeans that meet the overwhelming need of the food industry, and to profit at the same time," said QUALISOY chairman Jim Sutter.

Soybeans with a reduced amount of linolenic acid - low-lin soybeans - can meet this need for a healthier oil. Premiums available for low-lin beans range from 35 cents to $1. Low-lin varieties are available in 14 states, and this number is increasing every year.

John Davis, a soybean farmer and seed dealer from Delaware, Ohio, planted low-lin soybeans in 2005 and 2006.

"The premium is great," said Davis, "but we as farmers also need to think about being good stewards of the food we produce, to help people eat healthier."

The breakthrough of low-linolenic soybean oil will benefit the food industry and consumers, and could add an estimated $100 million per year to the value of soybean commodities.

It is predicted that more than 1 billion pounds of low-linolenic oil could be available by 2007, according to QUALISOY, but that still does not meet the need of the food industry. Kellogg Company and Kentucky Fried Chicken are among the major food companies and restaurants that have already switched to low-lin oil.

"We encourage soybean farmers to contact their seed dealers now to learn more about including low-lin varieties in their spring planting," said Sutter.

Low-linolenic soybeans that currently meet QUALISOY quality standards include VISTIVE(TM) from Monsanto; Pioneer(R) brand low-linolenic soybeans; and Asoyia(TM) ultra-low-linolenic soybeans.

QUALISOY is a collaborative effort within the soybean industry to help market soybeans that contain healthier oils and improve the global competitiveness of the U.S. soybean industry. A diverse 22-member QUALISOY Board of Directors sets research priorities; evaluates existing and emerging technologies; and determines which traits, products and processes will be eligible to carry the QUALISOY name.

SOURCE: QUALISOY news release.