`Codex Wants More Data on Engineered Soybean Oils


Codex Wants More Data on Engineered Soybean Oils

Mar. 25, 2013
Julie Butler

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Olive oil has some breath­ing room. Bioetch giants Mon­santo and DuPont will have to wait two more years to seek an inter­na­tional stan­dard for genet­i­cally-engi­neered high-oleic soy bean oil — which some say could become olive oil’s biggest rival.

That’s because the Codex Com­mit­tee on Fats and Oils (CCFO), which is respon­si­ble for oil stan­dards, wants more detailed pro­duc­tion and export fore­casts first.

It recently rejected a United States pro­posal for a stan­dard to facil­i­tate global trade” in the new oil, which the U.S. expects to soon gain wide accep­tance in the food pro­cess­ing indus­try thanks to its long sta­bil­ity and shelf life, and neu­tral fla­vor.

Exports to reach 31,300 tons by 2017


Accord­ing to U.S. pro­jec­tions, pro­duc­tion of high-oleic acid soy­bean oil is set to rise 20-fold in less than five years — from nearly 50,000 tons in 2012 to more than a mil­lion in 2017 — while exports rise from 230 to 31,300 tons.

Though still just a small pro­por­tion of global pro­duc­tion of tra­di­tional soy­bean oil, which in 2011/12 was about 42 mil­lion tons, the U.S. pre­dicts the new soy­bean vari­eties will steal sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket share due to traits improv­ing their health­ful­ness and func­tion­al­ity in foods. The lat­ter is largely due to their being engi­neered to be high in the heart-healthy monoun­sat­u­rated fat olive oil is famed for.

Fore­cast trade too low

Accord­ing to the Codex Ali­men­ta­r­ius Commission’s report on the CCFO ses­sion held in Malaysia from Feb­ru­ary 25 to March 1, sev­eral del­e­ga­tions had sup­ported the U.S. pro­posal: In their view the oil could con­tribute to a health­ier diet and…Codex should move more quickly to address the needs of its mem­bers.”

But sev­eral oth­ers said the pro­duc­tion and inter­na­tional trade fig­ures were too low to jus­tify new work towards includ­ing a stan­dard for the oil.

In the end, the CCFO agreed — despite reser­va­tions by Italy and Switzer­land” — to set up an elec­tronic work­ing group chaired by the U.S. to revise the pro­posal for con­sid­er­a­tion at its next ses­sion, in Feb­ru­ary 2015.

High-oleic palm oil from Colom­bia

Mean­while, Colombia’s bid on includ­ing high-oleic palm oil in the veg­etable oils stan­dard met the same fate — an elec­tronic work­ing group will revise the pro­posal ahead of the next ses­sion.

Colom­bia had argued the new vari­ety would con­tribute to healthy diet because of (its) com­po­si­tion of fatty acids.”

Sev­eral del­e­ga­tions sup­ported it, though one said the prod­uct should be referred to as mid-oleic acid, for con­sis­tency with other high- and mid-oleic acid oils. Oth­ers said the pro­duc­tion vol­ume was too low and trade data lack­ing.

High-stearic, high-oleic sun­flower oil

Argentina’s del­e­ga­tion was unhappy time ran out at the meet­ing before it could present pro­pos­als includ­ing amend­ing the stan­dard to include high-stearic high-oleic sun­flower oil.

Accord­ing to the Codex report, Argentina said that given the impor­tance of the issues, (and) the work­load and fre­quency of the Com­mit­tee, a deci­sion should have been taken to expe­dite the work and to dis­cuss all items on the agenda, tak­ing into account the efforts made by Mem­bers to par­tic­i­pate in the Com­mit­tee.”

The report also said the ses­sion was attended by 101 par­tic­i­pants from 35 coun­tries, among them Robert Reeves, pub­lic affairs direc­tor of soy­bean indus­try coali­tion Qual­isoy.

USDA says there was wide sup­port” for new work

In a Codex news report on March 8, the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture said that there had been wide sup­port” for pro­pos­als for new work by coun­tries includ­ing the U.S., Argentina, Aus­tralia, Colom­bia and Iran, but the Com­mit­tee (CCFO) did not agree to rec­om­mend any of these pro­pos­als to the (Codex Ali­men­ta­r­ius) Com­mis­sion.”

Elec­tronic work­ing groups were estab­lished for these new work pro­pos­als with the excep­tion of the Aus­tralian pro­posal to revise the campes­terol level in olive oil to accu­rately reflect lev­els found in all olive oil pro­duc­ing regions,” it said.

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