New Study: Health Professionals Support Biotechnology’s Use in Food Products and Sustainable Farming
A 2012 study found that 77 percent of healthcare professionals recognize the health benefits of including soy in consumer diets, with menopause relief, protein source and heart health topping the list of specific benefits they identify. Study participants also view soybean oil as healthy as canola oil, and perceive agricultural biotechnology as positive if it enhances the nutritional benefits of food products. The findings were part of a comprehensive healthcare professional study sponsored by the United Soybean Board and conducted by an independent market research firm.
Nearly two-thirds of healthcare professionals view biotechnology as a positive method for food production (61 percent). One in three study participants is aware of specific health and nutrition benefits (33 percent); within that group, health professionals most often mention increased nutrients (52 percent). Additionally, health professionals identify a number of other positive health and agriculture attributes—including many specific to soy – ranging from reduced saturated fat content in food products to the use of fewer pesticides/herbicides in farming.
Often labeled vegetable oil on supermarket shelves, soybean oil rated highly in the study. In fact, the majority of participants perceive soybean oil to be as healthy as canola oil (67 and 69 percent, respectively). Lisa Katic, RD, commented for the United Soybean Board, noting, "I'm encouraged to see health professionals recognize soybean oil as a healthful choice, given that it is rich in polyunsaturated fats and relatively low in saturated fat, and a perfect ingredient for preparing healthful meals such as a vegetable and chicken stir-fry."
Many health professionals report that once aware of biotech enhancements to soybeans that reduce saturated fat and increase omega-3s, they are likely to recommend increased consumption of soybean oil (43 and 42 percent, respectively). These findings corroborate the International Food Information Council's 2010 Consumer Perception of Food Technology survey results showing that consumers are more likely to purchase foods produced through biotechnology that provide more healthful fats like omega-3 and limit trans fat (76 and 74 percent, respectively).
Katic agrees with these sentiments, stating, "US soybean farmers are seeking out innovative ways to grow crops with traits that reduce 'bad' fats and increase 'good' fats, including non-fish based omega-3 essential fatty acids. That's important for human health and the environment, as these soybeans will provide a renewable source of omega-3s rather than depleting oceans of marine sources." On a related note, healthcare professionals consider US soy farming practices sustainable (88 percent).
Efforts to produce crops with improved nutritional value via biotechnology are also supported by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly known as the American Dietetic Association, and a majority of study participants say they agree with the association's advocacy of biotechnology (59 percent). Health professionals' support of biotechnology in food production falls in line with new consumer findings that will be released in the summer of 2012. The 19th Annual Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition study, sponsored by the United Soybean Board, found that over half of those familiar with the term "biotechnology" believe it has a positive role in food production (58 percent). This reflects an eight percent jump in consumer support from levels that remained constant in 2010 and 2011 at 50 percent.