Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Organic Vs. Genetically Altered Soy

A reader who goes by the intriguing name of Xielolixii sent an e-mail with this question: "It would be nice to know how to determine organic soy vs. genetically altered soy. Any info on that?" I completely agree; it WOULD be nice if there were a way to determine organic from genetically altered soy. The problem is that different forms of soy show up as ingredients in thousands of products, and by and large you can assume that organic soy isn't being used. If you're buying a product that's primarily soy - like soy milk, for instance - you can look for a "certified organic" label. If that label isn't there you can assume it's not organic. And in many cases, soy that's not raised organically may be genetically altered. It's estimated that 20 percent or more of the U.S. soy crop is genetically engineered to survive regular spraying with a powerful chemical used to kill weeds. But while organic soy is arguably a better choice than non-organic, there's no reason to assume that it's necessarily healthy. If a product is highly processed from organically grown soy, it still has dubious nutritional value. But the problems with soy run even deeper than that. Here's how panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., addressed the soy topic in a previous alert: I am not a fan of today's soy for a large list of reasons (even though the stuff is commonly labeled a 'health food'). The phytates on board block absorption of more than just minerals (proteins are also involved), and are only deactivated with soy that's been fermented. Tofu, textured soy protein and most other forms are anything but. Tempeh, miso, soy sauce made by the traditional method (most in the U.S. is not), and a few other forms are the only ones that qualify, and we don't see them much around here. "Today's commercial soybeans are not the same as in centuries past - they've been modified, which alone bothers me. However, the current hype about the phytoestrogens in soy is, to me, further cause for worry. Daidzein and genistein are named as reasons to procure soy, especially for women with menopausal difficulties. The jury may still be out on that one, assuming you have a form of soy with no phytates. However, there's little doubt that some significant estrogenic influence is involved, and that should be of concern." For a much broader overview of the health hazards of soy, Dr. Spreen recommends what he calls a "somewhat scary" article titled "The Ploy of Soy" by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., published online at westonaprice.org. It's important to note that this is a pro-dairy group. Still, this article and others that appear in the "Soy Alert!" section of that web site clearly demonstrate that soy is a far cry from health food.

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