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  • Unconventional Ag

Low Allergen Soybean Could Mean High Impact for Soybean Market

After a decade of research work, scientists at the University of Arizona and the University of Illinois have developed a new low-allergenic soybean with significantly lower levels of key proteins that are responsible for its allergic and anti-nutritional properties.

The new variety, created using traditional breeding methods, could make the production of animal feed more efficient, and could make soy products more available to the millions of people with food allergies.

In 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) identified P34 as the key allergen in soybeans and using genetic engineering, eliminated it from the soybean crop. However, because of its transgenic nature testing was disrupted, especially in critical uses like in infant formula.

For the past ten years Eliot Herman, Monica Schmidt, and Theodore Hymowitz of the Universities of Arizona and Illinois have screened 16,000 varieties, finding one lacking P34. The team then stacked the P34 free soybean with others lacking agglutinin and trypsin inhibitor proteins responsible for anti-nutritional effects in both livestock and humans.

These stacked varieties were then crossbred to the soybean reference genome called William 82, producing a soybean with almost no P34 or trypsin inhibitor protein and completely lacking agglutinin, that the team has called ‘Triple Null’.

Tests are currently being planned in partnership with Purdue University to determine Triple Null’s efficacy using swine that Purdue scientists have bred to have very similar reactions to soybeans as allergic human infants do to soybean infant formula.

Soybeans are the top vegetable protein component in animal feed, and are a growing portion in aquaculture feed – an industry that is expected to account for 75% of all consumed seafood by 2030. However, before their inclusion in livestock feed, traditional soybeans must be heat processed to eliminate the anti-nutritional trypsin protein inhibitor and agglutinin – a process, and therefore a production cost, that would be eliminated by Triple Null.

"By the year 2050, animal feed needs are expected to rise 235 percent," says Monica Schmidt. Eliot Herman adds, "At the current rate, we'll have to more than double the amount of animal feed by the year 2050. This means that several hundred million more tons of soybean will need to be processed before it can be fed to animals.” The development of Triple Null could mean the prospect of a raw soybean variety suitable for the livestock feed industry.

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