‘Natural’ soy’s sins listed in new report

Soy vey!: Soy products market pioneer Silk doesn’t look so smooth in a new report by the Cornucopia Institute. Not only does it get a zero-bean rating in the scorecard, but it turns out that Silk, owned by agribiz giant Dean Foods, has quietly shifted from organic to mostly conventional soybeans, meaning genetically modified. (We stand corrected by a vigilant reader.) Had you noticed? Lots of other “natural” bean processors get their lumps, too, with the revelation that they use the petroleum-derived solvent hexane to extract oil from the beans. The top-rated soy-product manufacturer was Eden Foods. “Behind the Bean: The Heroes and Charlatans of the Natural and Organic Soy Foods Industry,” is available online as an 11-MB PDF of the full report, as an executive summary (4.5 mb PDF), or  summarized by Cornucopia in a post on the Alternative Health Journal website.

6 Responsesto “‘Natural’ soy’s sins listed in new report”

  1. Huh boy. As someone who purchases Silk soymilk due to the flavor and texture, I have to mention that the “Natural” soymilk made from conventional soybeans is still explicitly made from non-GE soybeans. It says so right on the label. The perils of knee-jerk assumptions…

    Personally, I think “non-GMO” products are trying to carve out a ‘food-fear’ niche, so I try to ignore such labels  as I do “HFCS FREE!” and “0g Trans Fat” and “This candy is a Fat Free Food” – although each one is technically accurate, they mislead people into thinking that they are buying something of higher quality or healthier content. It’s known as the Health Halo effect, and is well-documented.

  2. Hi Karl, thanks for catching that. My kneejerk mistake editing a squib written by someone else. As for “food fear” mongering, well, this 2004 Italian study, “Ultrastructural analysis of testes from mice fed on genetically modified soybean,” that I read today did rather give me the … um, willies:

    Such studies — which I suspect you’ll soon invalidate, at length — are among the many reasons I don’t think “non-GMO” labels are the equivalent of “fat free.”

  3. Hi  Bonnie, that was quick! There’s no need to go ‘at length’ to debunk the study. (Link) A few sentences will suffice. :) (Uh oh, have I been typecast already?)

    One of the major issues with studies conducted on GE foods that claim to find a health effect from the transgene is that they do not use proper controls. All good science has to properly control for the many variables involved. In order to say that a particular gene is responsible for a health effect you are studying, you have to make sure the rest of the genes are identical between your control and experimental group. Two soybeans that are identical in this respect are called “isogenic” (or isolines) – and are necessary for a study to conclude that a transgene is causing such a health effect.

    In the Materials/Methods section of the paper, they describe the source of the GE and control soybeans:
    Pregnant Swiss mice were fed on a standard laboratory
    chow containing 14% GM soybean
    (Padgette et al., 1995). In parallel, other pregnant
    mice were fed on the same diet with wild type soybean.
    The respective litters were fed on the parental
    diet (12 controls and 12 GM-fed) and killed by cervical
    dislocation when 2, 5 or 8 months old.

    They did not use isogenic conventional soybeans – they just grabbed any ol’ soybean variety to use as a control. It is important to note that soybeans are known for their phytoestrogens (and other components)  – which is also known to differ from variety to variety. Testis are one of the organs that are sensitive to hormones such as estrogens. Which is more likely to affect testis – a transgenic enzyme that helps plants make amino acids, (ESPS synthase) or the many varietal differences between the non-isogenic soybeans used in the study?

    I mentioned ‘Fat Free’ in the context of a candy labeled as such – obviously as a candy it is loaded with sugar, and ‘fat free’ is intended to distract consumers from the more relevant information legally required to be on the product – the Nutrition Facts label.

  4. Whether non-GMO is healthier or not I still avoid GMO foods where possible for the simple reason that I do not like the behavior of the GMO companies like Monstersanto. They should not be allowed to patent life. The whole patent system is corrupt and abused, far beyond the original intents of our founders to give a limited benefit to developers to encourage innovation. Thus, whether it is healthier or not is irrelevant. GMO companies suck. This makes “non-GMO” on the label important.

    On a closely related note, we fought back against rBST and won. Lets keep fighting against GMOs and against the abuse of the patent system, copyright system, etc. I’m not saying no patents but some companies, both in agriculture and software among other fields, are grossly abusing the system.

  5. Cherie says:

    Its always shocking to find out the big monster corporations behind some of the foods that I see on the shelves at my natural foods co-op. Dean foods and Silk? Sucks. I came across a list of these shocking connections while reading the book “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith. Anyway, I posted the list on my site-   http://cheriepicked.com  – if anyone’s interested in checking it out. It certainly changed my buying habits and made me more active in double checking who’s behind some of my favorite foods.


  6. I’d like to recommend a book by Dr. Ellis Jones, The Better World Handbook / Shopping Guide. He’s a professor of sociology at UC Davis, and I have also interviewed him on my radio show. I would provide the link to the episode online however I am in the middle of moving the podcast content to a new site.

    One of the things that he has noticed is that large companies do often have their coporate policies trickle down to their subsidiaries. But this is not always the case – some notable examples are Ben & Jerry’s, and Tom’s of Maine. They have maintained the way their companies are managed even though they are owned by bigger companies.

    There are two ways of looking at influencing companies through purchasing decisions. One, echoed here, is that you do not shop from any companies that have a bad history, even if they have a good component to their structure. The idea there is to send your money to better companies so that they grow and outcompete the bad ones. Alternately, you can change the business practices of those companies from within, by buying from them when they do better. Nike is a good example of this – because of high pressure from consumers and other groups, they were very pro-active with fixing some of the problems with their supply chain.

    I’m glad to hear that Walter Jeffries doesn’t have a problem with public GMOs such as PRSV-resistant papayas, and other GMOs that have no patent restrictions on them, such as “Liberty Link” cultivars. (They still have the patent on the herbicide so they openly declare that farmers can save the seed.) If farmers thought they could make more money growing a different GE crop, perhaps ‘Monstersanto’ would pay attention?