(In reference to “Trans Fat Debate Heats Up,” page 4, November 2006.)

We commend your decision to cover trans fat; this is an issue we as farmers need to understand as we choose soybean varieties. There are two points we'd like to address.

First, your interpretation of National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) report is a bit off-target. NAS does not advocate complete elimination of trans fat. The report states that doing so would require “extraordinary changes in eating patterns which may introduce undesirable effects and unknown health risks.” NAS recommends reducing, not eliminating trans fat. Indeed, a form of trans fat is naturally occurring in beef and dairy products, though in very low amounts, so the NAS recognized the valuable contribution of these agricultural products to our diets.

Second, you say there are “plenty of studies” that connect trans fat to obesity. This is not the case. The last major study, by Alison et al. in 1999, reported the average trans-fat intake to be 2.6% of calories per person per day. Removing trans fat would necessitate substituting another fatty acid, resulting in no difference in total calorie intake.

The U.S. soybean industry has responded to concerns about trans fat by creating new soybean varieties that produce oils that need little or no hydrogenation, thereby eliminating trans fat. It takes about eight years to bring a soybean varietal project to commercial fruition. Low- and ultra-low-linolenic varieties were planted on about 790,000 acres in 2006, and acreages are expected to more than double in 2007. Nearly 5 million acres of low-linolenic soybeans are needed to meet the growing demand.

Soybean farmers interested in helping to meet the need for a healthier oil and receiving premiums for growing low-linolenic soybeans should ask their seed dealers for more information.

Ike Boudreaux
Lebeau, LA
Member, QUALISOY
Board of Directors