Non-GM Soy Oil Project Looks to Expand
While low linolenic soybean projects from biotech giants such as Monsanto have received more press, a farmer-owned company in Iowa produced the first low linolenic soybean oil and did it using non-GM soybeans. Asoyia’s “low lin” soybeans also contain lower levels of linolenic acid than Monsanto’s GM varieties.
Asoyia, LLC, a farmer-owned Iowa company, has established an award-winning program producing low linolenic soybean oil that contains less trans fats. Demand for the company’s high-quality oil is strong, and its 125 farmers earn premium prices growing non-GM, low lin soybeans to make the oil. This year Asoyia aims to expand its program to meet market demand.
“Sell as much as we could make”
Finding markets for its low linolenic soybean oil is not a problem for Asoyia. The company sold its entire 2005 production of 13 million pounds.
In fact, Rich Lineback, Asoyia vice president of sales and marketing, says the company could sell a lot more. “We could sell as much of this oil as we could make right now.”
A 2006 US Food and Drug Administration law requiring food manufacturers to list trans fatty acid content on food labels has spurred strong demand for low linolenic soybean oil. “Low lin” oil contains much lower levels of trans fats than the commonly used hydrogenated soybean oil.
Asoyia sells its low lin oil to major US food manufacturers. The company also sells oil to restaurants, hospitals, and food service in Iowa and bottles the oil for sale in Iowa supermarkets and other retail stores. Asoyia is also negotiating deals with two national distributors.
To date, Asoyia’s low lin soybean project has been a huge success. Farmers are producing good-performing soybean varieties developed at Iowa State University. Demand for the oil has been strong. Asoyia’s farmers earned excellent premium prices of $.55 per bushel above commodity soybean prices. This year they will earn even more, $.80 per bushel plus profit sharing.
Asoyia’s oil is also top quality. Speaking to AgriMarketing, Asoyia’s chief executive officer Vivan Jennings said, “Zero trans fats, reduced saturated fat, little transferable taste, long fryer life and non-GMO. Plus, food cooked in Asoyia tastes great.”
AgriMarketing selected Asoyia oil as a “Product of the Year Runner Up.”
Asoyia received more recognition last November when it received the Value-Added Ag Venture Award from the Iowa Area Development Group (IADG) and the Iowa Farm Bureau.
David vs. Goliath
Asoyia’s biggest challenge is increasing production. The company’s farmers grew about 25,000 acres of low linolenic soybeans in 2005 and aim to increase that to 60,000 this year.
Asoyia faces stiff competition from biotech giants Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred. Both companies have introduced low linolenic soybean varieties, which contain the Roundup Ready genetically modified trait. Monsanto projects that Midwest farmers will plant 500,000 acres of the company’s Vistive low linolenic soybean in 2006, while Pioneer aims to get farmers to plant 200,000 acres of its varieties. In December, food giant Kellogg’s announced that it would use oil from Monsanto’s Vistive soybeans and Nutrium oil from Pioneer’s low lin soybeans.
Jennings sees the challenge competing with biotech Goliaths. “They happen to be a little bigger than we are,” he says jokingly.
Advantages: lower linolenic acid, higher premiums
The biotech companies’ low lin soybean programs are bigger, but Jennings believes Asoyia’s are better. “It’s by far one of the best programs, if not the best program, available,” he told the Des Moines Register.
Asoyia’s low lin soybeans offer several advantages over those of the biotech companies. Soybean varieties contain just 1 percent linolenic acid compared to 3 percent for the GM varieties. Farmers can earn double the premiums, with $.80 per bushel with Asoyia, plus profit sharing compared to $.40 per bushel for the GM varieties. Asoyia soybeans’ non-GMO status makes them more attractive to international buyers in Asia and Europe.
One challenge attracting new farmers is that many are used to producing GM Roundup Ready soybeans and are not willing to give them up. “It’s difficult to find producers to grow non-GMO,” says Jennings. “It’s just too easy to raise Roundup Ready.”
Asoyia is promoting its program to farmers through ads in Iowa farm publications, radio stations, and newspapers, aiming to reach its acreage goal. “We certainly would like to have 60,000 acres,” says Jennings “We can sell the oil.”
Asoyia’s production is now focused in eastern Iowa within a short drive to Cedar Rapids where the soybeans are processed into oil. Jennings hopes to expand the program to neighboring states.
“Tracer” IP/traceability program
Asoyia’s soybeans are produced within a system of identity preservation and traceability called the Asoyia Tracer Program.
Jennings says demand for traceability is coming from consumers who want to know who produced the food and from food manufacturers who want documentation tracing foods to their source. “We think this issue (traceability) is so great and we know there will be increasing need for it,” he says.
The Tracer Program includes identity preservation measures to ensure non-GM status of soybeans, controls on seed sources, GMO testing at certain stages of production, documented traceability back to the fields, and third-party verification.
Asoyia plans to trademark and secure a user patent on the Tracer Program.
The program is also compliant with the European Union’s GM food labeling and traceability regulations.
Farmers interested in growing
Asoyia’s low linolenic soybeans should
contact Vivan Jennings at 1-319-257-3400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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