Kenya, Haiti, Honduras, Mozambique, Senegal — those are a few of the countries that U.S. soy is helping through the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) program, according to Pradeep Khanna who works with the unique program through the National Soybean Research Laboratory.

Established in 2000, WISHH promotes the use of U.S. soy protein products for food-aid programs in developing countries where deficiency of protein is a serious problem. Khanna calls the program a win-win because it helps grow the demand for U.S. soybeans while also helping nourish some of the 800 million people in the world suffering from malnutrition.

Khanna explains that adding soy flour or textured soy to food programs is a way to improve the quality and quantity of protein in foods. He reports WISHH especially targets three populations at risk for malnutrition: pregnant women and women with small children, school children and people living with HIV/AIDS.

He says, “Good nourishment helps strengthen everyone's immune system. Even if people are unable to eat a lot, adding soy to the diet helps meet the required amount of protein in smaller amounts of food.”

Khanna reports that the WISHH program has generated a lot of enthusiasm about using textured soy and soy flour in food programs as a way to improve the quality and quantity of protein in foods. He explains that WISHH works with countries to develop soy-fortified foods suited for local markets without impacting texture and flavor.

For instance, in Botswana, where sorghum is a staple food, they've worked to develop soy-fortified sorghum flour. Soy-fortified wheat and rice blends have also been developed such as higher-protein breads for Tajikistan and soy-fortified noodles in Indonesian school lunches.

“People recognize the health benefits of soy and find it easy to add to foods,” says Khanna, who reports that in addition to continuing efforts in several countries, WISHH plans to start a new program in Vietnam in 2005.

Poised To Grow

Looking to the future, soy protein food utilization internationally is likely to grow. Keith Cadwallader, director of the Illinois Center for Soy Foods, says he expects a large amount of soyfoods' growth will be in underdeveloped, third world countries for undernourished populations.

“Soy is a great protein and many countries don't eat muscle meats. There is potential for soy as a textured protein ingredient that can fortify foods,” Cadwallader says.

An analysis of the global demand for protein by the National Soybean Research Laboratory also projects “explosive growth in demand” in Asia, Africa and South America over the next two decades.

At present, Khanna says 2,000 tons of U.S. soy have been exported through WISHH, but he says, “That's the tip of the iceberg. We are trying to get people to judge food by the nutrition it delivers. Soy is a wonderful alternative.”

For more information visit www.wishh.org.

Global Growth

Internationally, use of soy industrial products continues to grow as well. Japanese electronics giant Panasonic prints all of its product literature with soy ink and includes the red, white and blue soy ink logo on its packaging.

Europe is also becoming a large consumer of soy ink and biobased products because they are so environmentally conscious.

China's aquaculture industry consumes the equivalent of nearly 140 million bushels of U.S. soybean meal annually. The soybean meal is used to feed fish being raised for the food industry in offshore ocean cages.

Both Brazil and Argentina are putting laws in place to provide incentives for the production of biodiesel and 2-5% biodiesel blends in their countries. The Brazilian government has invested between $2-3 million in biodiesel research, has tax breaks planned for producers who grow oilseeds for biodiesel and anticipates 150,000 new jobs will be created from biodiesel production. There is even some pressure in Brazil and Argentina to make the voluntary use of biodiesel mandatory.