Soy - Part Four: GMOs & Soy Production

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If you've been following along on this "Truth About Soy" Series, then you know I've already touched on some of the issues with soy beans. Specifically, the anti-nutrient properties of soy like goitrogens, phyto-estrogens, and enzyme inhibitors. Whereas my previous posts focused on the fundamental issues with the plant itself, this post points to the problems associated with the production of modern soy products.

The way we grow and process soy beans is a huge concern!

GMOs: Genetically Modified Organisms... An issue all on its own.

Oh GMOs.

Thanks to all the media exposure regarding GMOs and labeling laws, most people have at least a basic understanding of the term. But unfortunately, there's still not a lot of clarity about what GMOs are and why they may be negatively impacting our health.

The topic of GMOs could really be a post (maybe even a series) all its own, but I will be keeping it brief here.

Genetically Modified Soy

More than 90% of soy produced worldwide is genetically modified--but it is rarely labeled.

What's the issue? Let me briefly answer a few questions that we should have as consumers...

Why is genetically modifying different than other breeding methods, like hybridization?

Modern hybridization is the specific, controlled, cross-pollination between two compatible varieties of parent plants. This process can occur naturally, but breeders are able to control this process to ensure the desired outcome in a much shorter time-span. The process is still conducted in fields, using low-tech methods. Think of it as guided, natural reproduction.

On the other hand, genetically modifying is a high-tech process done in labs. It involves gene-splicing and changing the DNA of a plant. What is most unnatural, is that the genes being combined aren't necessarily even the same species. Genes from bacteria or even animals can be injected into the DNA of a plant. They become organisms that would not occur in nature.

Are GM foods tested for safety?

"There have been no human safety tests on these foods and no investigations or monitoring of their effect on people in the community who have eaten them. Some GM foods haven't even been tested on animals. Most of the animal tests assess only the new proteins engineered to appear in the plant, not the whole food, and for only a few days' exposure. Full animal autopsies are rarely done. Almost all of the tests have been done by those with vested interests. There have been almost no independent safety tests." [emphasis mine]

And yet, the USDA has approved the use of GM foods.

"So far, only commodity crops with GM traits — such as corn, soy, alfalfa and sugar beets — have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for use, primarily in processed foods and animal feeds. The exception is GM sweet corn, which is now available at your grocery store." [emphasis mine]

So despite lack of testing, we are still consuming GMOs through processed foods, meat, and corn.

It is now known that DNA and proteins can go through our bodies without being fully digested--this is the cause of food allergies. There is also evidence to show that DNA can migrate into our white blood cells and organs.

There are studies emerging that show that this is true for GM soy too, like scientists at the Universities of Urbino, Perugia and Pavia in Italy who found that GM soy affects the cells in the pancreas, liver and testes of young mice.

This is scary to think about, since the "frankensteined" DNA of GM foods could cause a host of unknown issues in our body if they enter our own organs.

What happens if we find out it's not safe?

Umm... nothing? What I mean is that we can't just "recall" GM crops. It's not a car seat or even a food product that we can just recall and fix the issue. It's an entire system of agriculture! Furthermore, GM crops can (and often do) contaminate nearby, organic crops and also causes soil to become contaminated. It has a pervasive and continuing impact.

Is it a risk we're willing to take?

The best way to avoid GMOs is to eat only organic foods (GM ingredients are not allowed in organic foods) and avoid products containing corn, soy, canola oil and refined sugar as they are the main GM foods in production.

The Modern Production Process

When you understand how soy (specifically, soy protein isolate - SPI) is processed, it's difficult to still see it as a "health food."

"The production of SPI involves a slurry of soybeans mixed with an alkaline solution to remove fibre, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash in aluminum tanks (leaching high levels of aluminum into the final product,) neutralized in an alkaline solution, and then spray-dried at high temperatures...The high temperature of processing has the side effect of denaturing the other proteins in soy to render them largely ineffective, and makes the addition of lysine important to soy feed for normal growth in animals. The spray drying causes nitrites (potent carcinogens) to form, and a toxin called lysinoalanine is also formed during the alkaline processing..."[emphasis mine]

The end product is a mostly tasteless powder that can be added to virtually any food, and it is. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, up to 60% of processed foods contain this powder.

  • Because of the high temperature at which the soy is processed, the proteins are denatured to the point that the protein becomes minimally available.
  • Processing of soy protein results in the formation of lysinoalanine (toxic) and nitrosamines (carcinogenic).
  • Aluminum, which leaches into the soy from the tanks, has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It is also toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys.
  • Free glutamic acid or MSG, a dangerous neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are often added to many soy products to disguise the soy bean's bitter taste. MSG is rarely labeled.

This is the last part of the series discussing the negative health impacts of soy on the general population. Next week, I'll be going into how soy products could be harming our children.

Soy - Part Four GMOs & Soy Production

Read the whole "Truth About Soy" Series:

Part One - Introduction

Part Two - The Dangers of Unfermented Soy

Part Three - Phytoestrogens

Part Four - GMO's and Soy Production

Part Five - Should Kids Eat Soy?

Part Six - The Benefits of Fermented Soy

Part Seven - Conclusion

HealthTaryn Nergaardfood, GMO, soy