ICAR developing new non-GM soybean genotypes high in oleic acid

Derived oils with high oleic acids are free from trans fatty acids that pose high risk of heart ailments

The Directorate of Soybean Research (DSR) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is developing new genotypes that could potentially yield high oleic acid and high oil content in the crop.

Scientists at the DSR are hopeful of achieving up to 55 per cent oleic acid content in the new genotype. The IC210 soy genotype, which the DSR developed a few years ago and licensed it has 42 per cent oleic acid. The IC210 genotype has an yield potential of more than three tonne per hectare and a maturity period of 95-98 days.

The widely sown regular varieties in the soybean cultivation belt in the country, JS9560, JS 335 and JS 9305, currently possess 19-25 per cent oleic acid and yield an output of around two tonne per hectare, with the crop maturing in 100-105 days.

Importantly, derived oils and fats in soybeans with high oleic acids need not be hydrogenated, a process which generates undesirable trans fatty acids, which healthcare experts says raises LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and lowers HDL (‘good’) cholesterol and puts one at risk of coronary ailments. Further, oil derived from beans with high oleic acid is more stable compared to the regular soybean genotypes.

While the agri research bodies in the country had been predominantly developing such “specialty soybeans” following non-genetic (non-GM) methods, in the US, these are increasingly being achieved through genetical modification.

According to the DSR, high oleic acid soybeans up to 55-60 per cent oleic acid does not require partial hydrogenation, an industrial process employed during the processing of edible oils. Also, it could serve the interests of the FMCG industry in their efforts to produce packaged foods that are safe for dietary consumption.

Speaking to Business Standard, DSR scientist Vineet Kumar, said they were hopeful of coming up with the high oleic acid soybean genotype in the next 2-3 years up to 55 per cent and more. ICAR plans to license the seed production. Food majors like ITC  Limited and  Ruchi Soya have already secured non-exclusive rights for some of the ICAR’s previous innovations in high oleic soybean (IC210) and kunitz trypsin inhibitor-free soybean research (NRC101, NRC102). The Kunitz trypsin factor in soybean is said to be inhibiting the trypsin secreted in the pancreas.

Soybean oil, which is one of the major source of omega-3 fatty acid among the available cooking oils, it is being imported to the tune of approximately 1.9 mt. In this  context, high oil lines in high yielding background being developed at DSR would be pivotal. Last year, India had imported 10 million tonnes (mt) of edible oils to meet the total 20 mt domestic requirement.

According to the Soybean Processors Association of India, the estimated production of soybean in the kharif 2014-15 stood at 10.04 mt, up from 9.4 mt in the previous year, with Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan being the major cultivators. Due to a sharp fall in international soymeal prices, and the Indian soymeal trading well above global prices, farmers have been the worst hit and the domestic processors had been operating at 50% utilisation.

However, the ICAR expects the country’s growing health conscious middle-class would generate higher demand, and is directing its research to remove the undesirable and anti-nutritional factors from soybean to make them more acceptable.  

The major deterrent in enhancing the utilisation of soybean for food purposes has been the presence of kunitz trypsin inhibitor (KTI) and off–flavour generating lipoxygenase. DSR scientists are currently “working towards removing both KTI and lipoxygenase in the same genotype”.

Though both the discouraging elements could be freed by heating, it is proved to be highly cost-ineffective and also affects the soy protein’s solubility characteristics.

As part of their efforts to include soybean in daily diet, DSR has developed vegetable soybean NRC 105, which Kumar said had similar characteristics of green pea and was also sweet. Similar genotypes, Karune and Swaranvasundhara, have been developed at All India Coordinated Research Project on Soybean  Centre at Bangalore and Ranchi, respectively.

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First Published: Jun 9 2015 | 8:41 PM IST

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