We at the Organic Consumers Association are often asked, "Which foods should one only eat organic?" At the top of our list is soy. There are few agricultural crops more dangerous to humans and the environment than conventional soy. Non-organic soy is:
GENETICALLY MODIFIED More than 90 percent of US soy is genetically modified. While genetic engineering is widely believed to be intended to increase yields, genetically modified soybeans, the world's most widely planted GM crop, have consistently lower yields than conventional soy.
SPRAYED WITH PESTICIDES Soy is genetically modified to withstand massive applications of Monsanto's RoundUp pesticide. According to the Center for Food Safety, U.S. government data reveal a huge 15-fold increase in the use of glyphosate on soybeans in the U.S. from 1994 to 2005, driven by the adoption of the Roundup Ready version of the crop. Increasing weed resistance to glyphosate has led to rising use of other toxic chemicals. In the U.S., the amount of 2,4-D (a component of the Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange) applied to soybeans more than doubled from 2002 to 2006.
PROCESSED WITH HEXANE Before being added to food, soy processors, including Archer Daniels Midland and Solae, use a toxic petroleum-derived solvent called hexane to extract the oil and protein. When hexane is released to the environment it degrades to produce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Hexane can cause dizziness and irritation and, with long-term exposure, nerve damage. It is regulated as a volatile organic compound, a class of compounds that contributes to smog problems. Hexane is highly flammable and a toxic hazard to workers. Hexane regularly results in explosions at soy processing plants that kill and injure workers and endanger surrounding neighborhoods. Hexane explosions have occurred at the Minnesota Soybean Processors plant (May 2009), a soybean oil factory in the Brazilian city of Formosa (March 2009), the Arkansas Riceland Foods plant (2006), the Iowa Ag Processing, Inc., plant (2003), the Canadian CanAmera Foods plant (2002), and the Indiana Central Soya plant (1994).
FUELING FACTORY FARMS Soybean husks go to factory farms to feed animals that would never eat soy in nature -- or on a traditional farm, for that matter. Worldwide, 85 percent of soy is produced for animal feed, mostly for pigs and poultry.
SUBSIDIZED BY TAXPAYERS The whole process is supported by taxpayers through federal farm subsidies.
MAKING US FAT While soy still has that crunchy granola reputation for being a health food ingredient, most of the soy in the American diet is found in junk food, especially processed and fast foods made with soy lecithin and "partially hydrogenated soybean oil" (trans fat). There is hardly a deep-fat fryer or multi-ingredient processed food product in the nation that doesn't contain soy.
In 2008, the US produced 20.8 billion pounds of soy oil.