A study by researchers at the University of California Riverside (UCR) has found that a particular brand of commercially available GM soybean oil, while delivering certain health benefits for consumer, may not differ much from alternatives, including conventional soybean oil, when it comes to certain other metabolic effects the consumption of these oils are likely to have. GM soybean oil was recently introduced in the US with the premise that it is healthier than conventional soybean oil. Scientists had “silenced” a gene in the fatty acid pathways to reduce linoleic acid content—soybean is rich in this essential fatty acid that is susceptible conversion into harmful trans-fat during processing. The UCR researchers found, in mice experiments, that the brand GM oil did not offer any advantage over conventional soybean oil when it came to causing diabetes and hepatomegaly or fatty liver. Given soybean oil has become the mainstay of frying in the US, activists will likely use the study as ammunition for furthering an anti-GM soybean oil campaign, and the broader anti-GM agenda. The masses and GM regulation worldwide, however, must keep in mind that this amounts to burning down the house to get rid of a rat.
The UCR research, published in Nature Scientific Reports, also shows that the GM oil that was tested induces lesser incidence of obesity and insulin resistance than non-GM soybean oil. Given the researchers believe that the obesity epidemic in the US could be linked to the increased consumption of non-GM soybean oil—Americans typically consume 4-8 times the linoleic acid that the body needs—the GM alternative could actually be a healthier bet. And at the worst, the research finds that the GM oil has the same effect on the liver as olive oil which, at least one of the UCR researchers avers, is considered the healthiest vegetable oil. While the research finds coconut oil to have fewest negative metabolic effects—despite consisting nearly entirely of saturated fatty acids—including on the liver, it does cause cholesterol levels to spike the same as conventional soybean oil. The take away? While it is desirable that further research be conducted into understanding and containing the negative fallout of this GM product in particular and GM products in general, it would be irrational to use it to hammer GM products collectively.