Thursday, August 09, 2007

Soy Bad

Last week I uncovered biofuels’ enormous carbon footprint, an example of a ‘green’ solution gone terribly wrong. Now that ‘green’ is all the rage, we should all be wary of green washing. Something may present ‘green’ but best to kick the tires before taking it for a spin.

The latest issue of the Utne Reader does just that in its reprint of articles from Terrain and In These Times, which provides an expose on soy as a food source and biofuel.

Soy is everywhere. You can eat it as a bean or food made to look like meat or ice cream. You can drive using soy-based fuel. You can insulate your home with it. Heck you can even be fashionable wearing a soy-based outfit. But can you smoke it? That I don’t know. But soy fields have caused a great deal of smoke – in the Amazon basin. Precious jungle continues to burn thanks to this multi-billion dollar industry which, along with corn, can be found in most processed foods.

Burning and Poisoning
South America is a hotbed for soy thanks to market demand for it in animal feed and biodiesel. According to the article “Biofuel’s Big Bean” from In These Times, soy farming in South American doubled in five years – from 44 million acres in 1999 to 94 million in 2004. It is predicted that by 2020, 54 million additional acres of forests and savanna in the continent will burn to meet world-wide demand.

With low environmental and labour standards in these regions, companies like Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta, DuPont, Archer Daniels Midland, and Bunge are having a field day. Literally. Active farming communities in countries like Paraguay are all but gone – forced out by lost land and poison.

According to one farmer, “I didn’t want to leave. I built my farm and raised my children here. I planted fruit trees. For the first time in my life I had good land. Then the soy farmers arrived and we couldn’t stand the fumigation. We had terrible headaches, nausea and skin rashes, problems seeing, repertory infections. The chickens died. The cows aborted their calves and their milk dried up.”

Fuel to Fire
World-wide subsidies to the biofuel industry is currently between $5.5 billion and $7.3 billion annually, according to The International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI).

“Many of these subsidies are poorly coordinated and targeted. The potential for waste on a grand scale and some spectacularly perverse environmental outcomes is large,” says Simon Upton, the Director of GSI.

Soy Diet
Soy is a vegetarian’s dream. A complete protein, it has been the meat substitution of choice for many human herbivores. Soy, like anything, is great in moderation. But too much of a good thing is not good at all. Soybeans naturally contain plant estrogens, toxins and antinutrients. Add to the fact that most soy found at grocery markets are highly processed, non-fermented and genetically modified, soy, like meat, requires thoughtful consideration.

But don’t despair. Soy still can be a healthy alternative. Here are some tips:

CHOOSE fermented soy. Fermenting creates probiotics – the good-guy bacteria that helps with digestion and overall wellness. Our fermented friends include miso, tempeh, natto and some tofu. We all look to the Asian diet as a healthy one. The soy they eat tends to be fermented.

CHOOSE local and organic soy. Ensure that no rainforest was burned or field was poisoned to make your meal.

AVOID processed foods as much as you can - a tall order in this day and age.

CHALLENGE yourself to make from scratch. Avoid all-purpose flower (contains soy).

AVOID vegetable oils and margarines. Soy oil accounts for 80 percent of all liquid fat consumed in the US. Healthier alternatives include almond, coconut, pistachio and pumpkin seed oils, as well as organic butter.

AVOID soy milk. An eight ounce serving contains up to 35 milligrams of isoflavones, which may change estrogen levels and hormonal function. Try rice or almond milk. Another alternative is coconut milk with dolomite powder, which matches the mineral content of milk and supports the immune system and thyroid.

In the News

Ethanol Is Feeding Hot Market for Farmland
But what about food? Aren’t people starving in Africa? Do Americans anticipate not needing to eat?

Born Again Green
Depressed by the stupidity of big business and government? This video should cheer you up.

Other News

Green Bloggers

Ecoshock Radio

Grist Magazine

Tree Hugger

Zerofootprint Blog

BBC – The Greenroom

New York Times – Environment



Alotta Errata said...

Thanks for this post, I think more women need to be made aware of the hormonal issues that can be caused by too much soy. About a year and a half ago I was told I have high cholesterol and so I started making all the changes, cutting out meat and reducing my dairy to non-fat (and organic) options whenever possible. I had considered switching to all soy until a coworker told me she had read an article that mentioned the cons of a high soy diet. I'm so glad she did!

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