Finding a soybean that doesn't contain the P34 protein that's responsible for allergic reactions in 6-8% of children is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But according to USDA, the “needle” has been found.

“After screening more than 11,000 plant types from the USDA germplasm collection in Urbana, one confirmed P34 null line and approximately 91 lines with significantly reduced levels of P34 have been found,” says Ted Hymowitz, a plant geneticist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Because soybeans are used in baby formula, a hypoallergenic soybean would help reduce the percentage of infants who have allergic responses to soy formula. An allergic response may include hives, itching, diarrhea and, in rare cases, anaphylactic shock.

After all plant types have been tested, the next step will be to transfer the trait that suppresses the P34 protein into a high-yielding, disease-resistant soybean cultivar.