Gene-edited Soybean Oil Touted as Non-GMO

A Minnesota company hopes their high oleic soybean oil will eventually become a market competitor to olive oil.

By Julie Al-Zoubi
Mar. 12, 2019 07:20 UTC

A new gene-edited soy­bean oil has gone on sale in the United States. The oil was devel­oped by Calyxt who high­lighted Calyno’s high oleic oil and zero trans fat con­tent while largely gloss­ing over the role genetic engi­neer­ing played in its devel­op­ment.

Calyxt stated that Calyno has not been genet­i­cally mod­i­fied as the soy­beans, which pro­duce Calyno, have had no for­eign genes intro­duced into their exist­ing DNA.

Unlike GMOs, we sim­ply edit exist­ing genes within crops using our tech­nol­ogy to speed up a process that oth­er­wise could have hap­pened in nature- Calyxt spokesper­son

The com­pany does, how­ever, use a gene-edit­ing tech­nol­ogy known as Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nuclease (TALEN), which tweaks the genes of plants.

Unlike GMOs, we sim­ply edit exist­ing genes within crops using our tech­nol­ogy to speed up a process that oth­er­wise could have hap­pened in nature,” a com­pany spokesper­son told Forbes. No for­eign DNA is added to the prod­uct.”

See Also:GMO News

Gene-edited foods are exempt from the U.S Department of Agriculture’s lengthy reg­u­la­tory process that is applic­a­ble to GMO prod­ucts, how­ever, a Calyxt spokesman told Forbes that Calyno had com­pleted the FDA’s vol­un­tary review process.

Calyno oil is sim­i­lar to other healthy oils Americans already love, like olive, sun­flower and saf­flower oils, and can eas­ily be incor­po­rated into foods and recipes with­out affect­ing taste,” Calyxt CEO, Jim Blome, said in the press release.

Although Calyxt described itself as a con­sumer-cen­tric com­pany, Calyno has yet to find its way onto super­mar­kets shelves. Until now it has been sold solely to the food­ser­vice indus­try, where demand is high for new trans-fat-free fry­ing oils with both long fry and extended shelf lives.

The com­pany hopes to make Calyno avail­able for con­sumers.

Our next focus is scal­ing up the sup­ply chain so that we can meet the grow­ing demand for health­ier high-oleic soy­bean oil not only for small and mid­sized food man­u­fac­tur­ers but also for global con­sumer pack­aged goods brands,” Manoj Sahoo, Calyxt’s chief com­mer­cial offi­cer, said in the press release.

According to that press release, Calyno is trans-fat-free, con­tains approx­i­mately 80 per­cent oleic acid and has up to 20 per­cent less sat­u­rated fat than reg­u­lar soy­bean oil.

Calyxt believes their high-oleic oil will even­tu­ally become a mar­ket com­peti­tor to olive oil, offer­ing a sim­i­lar nutri­tional pro­file but with a more neu­tral taste. The com­pany has report­edly accrued $74 mil­lion in debt from research and devel­op­ment.

This his­tor­i­cal com­mer­cial­iza­tion of the first-ever gene-edited food prod­uct is a tes­ta­ment that food man­u­fac­tur­ers and con­sumers are not only embrac­ing inno­va­tion but also will­ing to pay a pre­mium for prod­ucts which are health­ier and trace­able to the source,” Sahoo said.

A 2018 sur­vey revealed that 69 per­cent of U.S. con­sumers were not con­fi­dent they knew what GMOs were and 32 per­cent were not com­fort­able with the use of GMOs in their food prod­ucts. A 2016 report from The National Academies of Sciences stated there were no greater health risks asso­ci­ated with GMO foods than their con­ven­tional coun­ter­parts.

Gene-edited prod­ucts, such as Calyno, will be exempt from new label­ing reg­u­la­tions which come into force next year for genet­i­cally mod­i­fied ingre­di­ents, on the grounds that changes made by gene-edit­ing could, in the­ory, occur nat­u­rally. Highly refined foods in which pro­cess­ing destroys any genetic mate­r­ial are also exempt.

Calyno is the Minnesota-based company’s first prod­uct to be sold in the U.S. The com­pany have their sight set on pro­duc­ing other new con­sumer-focused gene-edited foods includ­ing high fiber wheat and reduced brown­ing pota­toes and have launched a high-oleic soy­bean meal hailed as a pre­mium non-GMO feed ingre­di­ent for live­stock.

Scientists at Calyxt first began to use gene-edit­ing tech­niques to make soy­beans more like olives back in 2017, after the USDA’s green light for gene-edited crops.

Ironically, a 2014 study sug­gested that extra vir­gin olive oil reduced the dam­age caused by GMO soy­beans.

Calyxt, which was founded in 2010 as a sub­sidiary of the French biotech com­pany Cellectis, sources its soy­beans from more than 100 Midwestern grow­ers with 34,000 acres of the soy­bean plants.


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