DuPont's Pioneer-branded soybean oil, Plenish has been genetically modified to have a healthier nutritional profile and longer fry life than conventional soybean oil.
Developed in 2012 and launched on the US market around one year later, Plenish was approved for the EU by risk assessors and the Commission just over a month ago (December 2017). This means that the stacked traits found in the high oleic soybeans can be used in food and feed.
Plenish has 20% less saturated fat than typical soybean oil and 75% less than palm oil. DuPont also says it has an oleic content of more than 75%, which is similar to olive oil, and a linolenic content of less than 3%, which means it has greater oil stability and a longer fry life. Commodity soy oil has around 7%. An additional benefit for food service operators is a reduced build-up of polymers on equipment, according to the supplier.
The United Soybean Board said the EU regulatory approval was “a monumental decision” which, combined with China’s authorization for imports of Monsanto’s Vistive Gold high oleic soybeans, will “increase the reliability of supply of high oleic soy for the food industry”.
In the EU, all foods containing 0.9% or more of GM ingredients must be clearly labelled as such on the product’s packaging. Despite this, Richard Galloway, consultant and oils expert at US trade group Qualisoy told this publication that some European manufacturers of consumer packaged goods had already shown an interest in the ingredient.
Secretary general of FEDIOL, the trade association that represents the interests of European oil crushers and refiners, Nathalie Lecocq, said:
"We welcome the fact that the Commission is approving GM events that have been positively assessed by EFSA and have complied with the process for GM approval. As regards Plenish, our understanding is that this soybean and the oil thereof is not targeted at the European market, but, its commercialisation in other regions increases the risk of presence in our supplies. Hence, the authorisation will remove legal uncertainty for operators and will prevent that even small trace amounts would create trade disruptions."
Galloway said the regulatory approval for the soy varieties was key for the entire soybean value chain, as it would boost soybean acreage for both Plenish and Vistive Gold.
“This will allow the industry to reach its goal of planting 18 million high oleic soybean acres, resulting in nine billion pounds [4bn kg] of high oleic soybean oil. In the coming decade, high oleic soybeans will become the fourth-largest grain and oilseed crop in the US,” he added.
Plenish currently commands a price premium of about €0.20 per kilo but Qualisoy said it expects this to fall to a quarter of that as production increases.
Soybean oil is not commonly used in Europe unlike the US although its use is rising globally. It accounts for more than 60% of all edible vegetable oil used in the US, and is used both as a home cooking oil and in processed foods.
An open access article available online and published in the scientific reports of Nature Journal, however, recently cast doubt over its health claims. The US researchers said while Plenish induced less obesity and insulin resistance in mice than conventional soybean oil, it did cause liver dysfunction and hepatomegaly, or enlarged livers.