Soybeans that yield oil with less saturated fat promise healthier eating for consumers and a higher value crop for producers.

These "value-enhanced soybeans" are a result of biotechnology, says Denise McWilliams, University of Minnesota agronomist.

"There were around 50,000 acres of high oleic soybeans planted in the Midwest in 1998," says McWilliams. "The oil from these beans is more stable and does not require hydrogenation for food use. This reduces processing costs and limits the trans-fatty acids associated with adverse serum cholesterol levels in humans. In addition to the health qualities, the new bean oil has a longer shelf life."

Plant scientists also are developing soybeans that are higher in protein and amino acids. This means, they will produce soybean meal that provides more feed value for livestock. "Increased levels of the amino acids lysine and methionine may reduce the proportion of higher-cost protein meals needed in livestock rations," says McWilliams.

Besides oil and meal quality improvements, some new soybean varieties are adding better food quality traits, says McWilliams. One example is new high-sucrose soybeans that have a better taste (less "Beany") and greater digestibility.

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