Spinning soya into gold

February 2011

If you read HIGH-OLEIC SOYA - February 2011, you'll know all about Monsanto's latest GM venture: added-value, nutrient-enhanced GM soya. You probably also noticed a hint of sarcasm in the description of the regulatory oversight of GM crops in the USA.

American GM 'oversight' takes the form of a voluntary consultation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during which all parties can ensure they have a get-out should anything go wrong: the biotech company can spin the process into FDA 'approval' of its GM crop, and the FDA can spin it into a thoughtful assessment of all the available evidence.

Although the FDA consultation sounds like a foregone conclusion in favour of the biotech industry, its completion in regard to MON 87705, high-oleic acid, GM soya was a cause for jubilation. So much so that Monsanto put out a press release telling the world about it.


This press release provides some fascinating insights into US regulatory attitudes to GM and into Monsanto's concept of 'life'.

The first half-sentence of the press release announces that the FDA consultation on MON 87705 has been completed. The following nine-and-a-half paragraphs mention the benefits to health, to farmers, to consumers, and to food quality of the new 'nutritionally improved' (mentioned four times), 'nutritionally desirable', 'additional value', high-oleic, low-saturate, low-trans fat Vistive Gold soya. (There's also a final paragraph reminding the press about how wonderful Monsanto is.)

This is slightly confusing because MON 87705 and Vistive Gold are two different kinds of soya, and there's a third kind called simply Vistive which has been around since 2005.
  • MON 87705 has been genetically transformed to increase its oleic acid content (which results in a lower linoleic acid and saturated fat content). It's also Roundup Ready.
  • Vistive is the off-spring of a conventionally-bred low-linolenic acid (and therefore low trans-fat) soya made GM by crossing with Roundup Ready soya. Since the Roundup Ready trait has been around a long time, and the change in nutrient profile is a result of traditional breeding, Vistive soya hasn't been particularly controversial.
  • Vistive Gold seems to be the next generation of nutritionally-enhanced soya. It's connection with Vistive seems to be in name only.
According to Monsanto's press release, the exciting things are that MON 87705 is “a key component” of the new Vistive Gold, and that its FDA consultation completes a “key regulatory step” towards the introduction of Vistive Gold. Assuming this indicates that MON 87705 has been crossed with something else to produce Vistive Gold, it means that Monsanto's view of life is a set of 'components' at its personal disposal to manufacture its products. Also, worryingly, it suggests that once one 'component' has been run past the regulators, anything further bred from it will also be deemed OK, no matter what it may have been crossed with afterwards.

However, the Vistive Gold lineage is further complicated. Apparently it will be 'combined with' Roundup Ready II Yield soya to give farmers an “increased yield opportunity”. Quite how they are to be 'combined' (shaken not stirred?) without altering the 'healthy' fatty-acid profile isn't clear.

What's certain is that the FDA 'consultation' has been spun into a major PR stunt for Vistive Gold, despite MON 87705 being an entirely different soya.

And, what's of concern is that there's every reason to expect that 'nutritionally improved' (mentioned four times), 'nutritionally desirable', 'additional value', high-oleic, low-saturate, low-trans fat Vistive Gold will carry all the risks of MON 87705 and a few new ones of its own.

Stick to healthy, natural, minimally processed oil.

SOURCES
  • Monsanto Completes FDA Consultation Process for Low-Saturate, High-Oleic Soybeans, Paving the Way for Introduction of Vistive Gold Soybeans, Monsanto News Release 26.01.11
  • Prof. Joe Cummins, Beware Monsanto's “Vistive Soybeans”, Institute of Science in Society Report 26.11.04
  • About Vistive, www.vistive.com, February 2011
  • Laura McGinnis, Genetic Markers Point Toward Low-Linolenic-Acid Soybeans, 31.03.11
  • Application for authorization to place on the market MON 87705 soybean in the European Union, according to regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed, Part II Summary
  • ROUNDUP READY 2 YIELD – News, April 2009, www.gmfreescotland.org.uk

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