Monsanto Co, the world's leading producer of genetically modified seeds, hopes that value-added soybeans - now in its research pipeline - will help underscore the benefits of GM foods among Japanese consumers and soften their resistance to such food.
"Knowing how important soybeans are in the Japanese diet, I see real opportunity in GM soybeans for Japanese consumers," said Kim Magin Sutter, Monsanto's Director of Global Oilseed Industry Affairs.
Soybeans with enhanced health advantages are currently under development at a Monsanto lab in St Louis, Missouri.
The company's researchers are trying to create soybeans containing omega-3 fatty acids and less than half the proportion of saturated fatty acids, Sutter noted. These re-engineered soybeans are expected to be more effective than naturally grown soybeans in cutting neutral lipid and bad cholesterol in the blood.
Sutter, who visited Japan to meet industry stakeholders, believes there is only a limited potential market for the firm's core seed lineup, because corn, soybeans, and cotton are mostly imported and not grown on a large scale in Japan.
If Japanese farmers are prepared to grow GM soybeans, "We would absolutely evaluate that opportunity," Sutter said.
Sutter pointed out that promoting an understanding about the benefits of genetic recombination is one of the important aspects in raising consumer acceptance.
The Japanese government has approved the safety of GM corn, soybeans and five other crops, but a government survey carried out last year revealed that 71% of respondents said they felt concerned about GM crops. As long as consumers are against re-engineered crops, Japanese food producers are unwilling to use them on a large scale.
Meanwhile, Sutter dismissed the argument that a few global agricultural majors are trying to control the world's seed market by dominating patents on GM technology.
It is up to the farmers to decide which seeds to plant on their farms, Sutter stressed. "They are going to pick what brings them the most yields."© JCN