Monsanto's genetically modified (GMO) soybeans have frequently been vilified over the years. The soybeans, protesters say, require too many pesticides, see lower yields, and could be responsible for the growth of resistant weeds. Now Monsanto appears to be emerging from the shadows of its nasty Big Ag reputation to do some good in the form of GMO soybean plants that contain omega-3 fatty acid-boosting oils.
Omega-3 fatty acids, known to cut the risk of heart disease, are present in fatty fish like sardines, albacore tuna, mackerel, and herring. Non-fish eaters miss out on omega-3's heart healthy benefits, and fishophiles are warned to limit their intake because of the high levels of mercury and other contaminants in fish. Since Monsanto's soybeans are present in everything from breakfast bars to salad dressing, the benefits of omega-3 could easily extend to anyone who eats food from the grocery store. The soybeans could even take the pressure off dwindling fish populations to provide us with heart-healthy fatty acids.
The soybeans need to be approved by biotech regulators at the Department of Agriculture before they can be produced in the U.S. Once they're out in the marketplace, Monsanto expects that average levels of omega-3s in the U.S. population will rise, potentially lowering the overall incidence of heart disease. And since heart disease is the top cause of death worldwide, that's a big deal.
Still, it's difficult to say conclusively that the benefits of Monsanto's soybeans—whether or not they contain omega-3s—outweigh the consequences. As mentioned previously, the company's GMO soybeans have caused a jump in the amount of pesticides used worldwide. These pesticides provoke the growth of herbicide-resistant "super-weeds" that lower yields and increase costs. But can a price be put on keeping the general population just a little bit healthier? It's a debate that may never see a conclusion.