AMANA, Iowa -- A recent soybean checkoff-funded study shows that four out of five consumers consider soybean products to be healthy, and more than half agree that consuming soy products can play a role in reducing obesity. To maintain that consumer confidence, however, the trans-fat issue must be resolved.

That's why the soybean checkoff has been working with industry partners to develop and promote low-linolenic (low-lin) soybeans. Low-linolenic soybean oil doesn't require hydrogenation -- the process that creates trans fats -- so the use of these soybean varieties reduces or eliminates trans fats in food products.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required food companies to begin labeling trans fats in their products. Since that time, food companies have made it a priority to avoid trans fats. Kellogg's has already stated it would use low-lin soybeans to help reduce or remove trans fats from its foods. The soybean checkoff is committed to helping make sure other food companies have that option as well.

"This past year, seed was available to produce up to 450 million pounds of low-lin oil," says Chuck Myers, United Soybean Board (USB) director and a soybean farmer from Lyons, Neb. "That accounts for nearly 950,000 acres of soybeans. The availability continues to increase, but it is up to farmers to ensure that this preferred product has enough supply to meet consumer demand."

Late this year, approximately 400 million pounds of low-linolenic oil could be available to the food industry. By 2007, more than 2.5 million acres of soybeans could be planted to low-lin soybeans. This growth will be driven by increased demand from the food industry as more food manufacturers seek out trans-fat solutions.

"In some cases, farmers could receive an additional $0.40 per bushel or higher," says Jim Legvold, USB director and soybean farmer from Vincent, Iowa. "The checkoff and plant breeders must continue to balance the demand by consumers with profitability of the soybean farmer. It is one thing to develop a product with specialty traits, but it is another to develop a product that can be grown profitably by soybean farmers."

The importance of low-lin soybeans to the future of food was the focus of an event at the Farm Progress show that also included other issues dealing with soyfoods. Representatives from USB, the Iowa Soybean Association and the Soyfoods Council discussed the latest in human consumption of soy.

Following presentations, attendees were treated to a soyfoods sampling that included tofu dessert bars, tortillas with soy protein, and soy sour cream. These are just a few examples of healthy and delicious foods made from soy.

"The soybean checkoff has invested in low-linolenic and related traits since 2000," says Myers. "Now it is up to the entire soybean industry to do everything we can to maintain the positive image of soy."

USB is made up of 64 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

SOURCE: United Soybean Board.