This is the week of superfoods and, if you read my post yesterday, my family will not be adding soy to our diet. For a number of years, soy was thought (and still is in many circles) to be the best plant-based source of protein available. Many scientists, doctors and nutritionists tout soy as being the "be-all-end-all" as it has little saturated fat and no cholestorol. Also, Asian cultures have been pointed out as having a soy-heavy diet and are in better health than Americans. All of this is true, but here's why soy is not for my family.
Monsanto has genetically modified the soybean to be Round-up Ready. For those of you that don't have a background in agriculture (or read way too many agriculture/food books such as myself), Round-up is a pesticide. Monsanto, using the process of bio-technology, added a gene to the soybean seed so it can withstand the Round-up pesticide. The farmer plants the soybeans, they sprout and as weeds begin to take root, the farmers spray their fields with Round-up. The weeds die and the pesticide laden soybean plants remain.
This bothers me on a few levels. First, pesticides kill things. I would like to limit my consumption of stuff that kills things. It just seems like a bad idea. Even if the pesticide isn't designed to kill me, eating it can't be all that good for you. Second, the whole bio-technology process is really scary to me. I think it's incredible that scientists can break the soybean down to the cellular level and add something to it and make it grow. That's really cool. How much testing has been done to ensure that it's safe for my children to consume? What are the lifelong effects of eating genetically modified food? How much testing has been done to see how the genetically modified seed mutates over its lifetime? What are the ramifications of that? Testing is nil. Monsanto has the FDA, EPA and Department of Agriculture in its back pocket, and the almighty dollar rules. The go-ahead to pronouce these foods as safe was given even though many scientists were finding evidence to the contrary. Third, the Round-up Ready soybean is killing the small family farmer. Farmer Joe (ficticious farmer) who has always saved his seed and planted a few hundred acres to support his family can no longer do that without Monsanto claiming that their patented Round-up Ready seeds have cross-pollinated and contaminated his field. By saving the seeds that are in his field, Farmer Joe has committed patent infringment and can be sued by Monsanto. We don't have to be accountants to realize that being sued by a multi-million dollar corporation like Monsanto would destroy a small family farmer. In 2008, 92% of the soybeans that were planted were Round-up Ready. Since, soy is in nearly every pre-packaged food, I just choose to say no, altogether. This is the number one reason why I cook most all of our food from scratch, solely to eliminate GMO soy (and corn) from our diet.
As for the Asian diet that relies heavily on soy, a closer inspection would find that much of the soy they ingest is fermented. The process of fermentation stops the effects of phytic acid and creates probiotics, Phytic acid inhibits absorption of nutrients and probiotics are "good" bacteria that aid in digestion. Products such as miso, tempeh and soy sauces are fermented. Soymilk, tofu, and all of the soy additives in processed foods are not fermented. So, for most of us, the most readily available sources of soy are not the ones that would be beneficial to us health-wise, and could be detrimental if we relied on them as our main source of protein.
I do want to point out that organic soy does exist and there are famers that are insisting on planting non-genetically modified soybeans. This year, it is expected for the first time since the introduction of Round-up Ready soybeans, that sales will fall. Woo-hoo! Perhaps I need to find myself a farmer, pick up some non-GMO soybeans and learn to ferment them!