GM soybeans giving you a healthy heart and arteries and making you brainy.

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Hi. I’m David Tribe a.k.a. GMO Pundit and this is my first post here.

I am really different from the other people at this blog because have got grey hair and I come from down under — the land of Vegemite and kangeroos. But it’s really nice to also be part of Biofortified.

I’m passing on some old news and some fresher news in this post.

Fish make you brainy, or so my dear, sadly missed mother used to tell me.

But it is not just fish that makes you brainy. It’s also genetically modified soybean oils.

And like fish, these new GM soybean oils can also make you healthier and live longer.

Prof Bill Harris, a research group in South Dakota has announced that when overweight human volunteers are given food supplemented with a special new soybean oil, their blood chemistry changes quickly to have the healthy blood profile of omega-3 fats.

Omega-3 content in the blood is a good index of improved health.

The special soya bean oil that these human volunteers took in their diets was enriched in a natural omega-3 fatty acid called SDA.

Genetic modification of soybeans is the best way to coax food crops to make healthy SDA fatty acid.

Many other scientific reports establish that the blood composition change seen in people by Prof Harris correlates with improved cardiovascular health.

Prof Bill Harris himself was quoted by The Times in London as saying that this blood chemistry improvement indicates a 50% lower risk of heart attacks.

Soybean varieties that are substantially boosted SDA levels by genetic modification have been thoroughly documented in the scientific literature since 2006. They should reach commercial markets within about four years, according to the Monsanto Co.

In terms of practical health benefits from foods the average person can afford to buy and eat on a regular basis, this news is a very major step forward.

Until now most of the credible health benefits from omega-3 fatty acids hinged on supplementing diets with other omega-3 oils than SDA that are very difficult to obtain in high quantities from plants, and are naturally expensive.

Price and availability matter when it comes to human health. Poor people can’t afford expensive food sources.

We have so far had to rely on fish to get health enhancing omega-3 oils, and meeting the projected huge demand for omega-3 oils from fish harvests is environmentally unsustainable.

Although many research labs are trying to use genetic modification get  healthy oils that we currently get from fish produced by plants, the research is difficult and the levels of healthy oils in genetically modified plants have so far been relatively low. Except for SDA. The quantities of SDA omega-3 oil produced in genetically modified soybean are pretty high (20-29% of total oils).

Achievement of measurable health benefits with SDA in the diet as shown by Prof Harris has accelerated the entry of nutritionally enhanced GM soybeans into the consumer marketplace by several years. He has shown that SDA will do the job. The plenty of SDA in the new GM soybeans.

Investors take note.

The announcement in The Times (in November 2008) is something that serious stock market investors will have been taking note of.

Earlier, in March 2007 Monsanto announced a commercial collaboration with the Solae company (which in turn is an investment vehicle of two other major commodity players, DuPont, and Bunge) to accelerate delivery of plant technology with consumer benefits — including omega-3 oils. In those 2007 announcements there were projections that growth of omega-3 supplemented food sales will surge forward at 60% compound growth from 2002 through 2011. (See )

I would hazard a guess that that a rapidly growing American food market getting health benefits from GM soybean oils will change perceptions about safety of genetically modified foods

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David Tribe is an applied geneticist, teaching graduate/undergrad courses in food science, food safety, biotechnology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne.