March 17, 2009 / 10:32 PM / 10 years ago

DuPont tests market for healthier GMO soy oil

CHICAGO (Reuters) - DuPont Co DD.N hopes to roll out this year what could be the world’s first genetically modified soybean seed aimed at health-conscious consumers and the food companies that serve them, company officials said.

DuPont Group Vice President Agriculture Jim Borel speaks during the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago March 17, 2009. REUTERS/John Gress

Regulatory approval is pending, but DuPont is already testing the product with food processors to gauge demand and pricing.

A small-scale introduction is projected later this year, Jim Borel, DuPont group vice president for agriculture, said at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago on Tuesday.

Assuming the company wins regulatory approvals, “We’re going to be launching this year ... the first transgenic product that has health benefits to humans,” Borel said.

High oleic soybeans have an elevated level of oleic acid and 25 percent less saturated fat, with a health profile similar to olive oil. The product could compete with palm and other vegetable oils.

The oil is designed to offer better frying characteristics for food preparation and there are also industrial applications where it could replace petroleum-based products.

Testing by food industry players is evaluating a range of characteristics for a U.S. introduction.

“Food companies are very interested. They clearly see the value,” said Borel.

DuPont is launching the new bean in conjunction with Bunge Ltd (BG.N).

The high-oleic soybean product is among many new biotech and conventional crop products DuPont’s agriculture and nutrition business unit is developing, Borel said.

The company last year spent about $700 million in research and development for its agricultural and nutrition platform and plans to exceed that in 2009.

DuPont has projected that its pipeline will produce technology enhancement that can increase corn and soybean yields by 40 percent over the next decade.

Corn seeds that now average about 150 bushels per acre could be at well over 200 bushels an acre, for example.

The company has just launched its “Y-series” soybean seed, which marks the largest product launch in the company’s history.

DuPont expects Y-series beans to be planted on 9 million acres in the United States this year.

Borel said the Y-series family of soybeans averaged a 5 percent increase in yield, with some 6-10 percent higher yielding.

In corn, the company has new herbicide-tolerant corn coming to market, along with a type of insect-resistant corn that will allow farmers to avoid setting aside acreage to refuge.

Reporting by Carey Gillam, editing by Matthew Lewis

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