Thank you for signing up!
How Healthy Is Soy?
How healthy is soy? I heard that, despite its healthy image, most soy is grown using chemicals like other crops and is even being genetically modified.
— D. Frinka, Syracuse, NY
But there may be a dark side to soy’s popularity and abundance. “Many of soy’s health benefits have been linked to isoflavones — plant compounds that mimic estrogen,” reports Lindsey Konkel in Environmental Health News. “But animal studies suggest that eating large amounts of those estrogenic compounds might reduce fertility in women, trigger premature puberty and disrupt development of fetuses and children.” But before you dump out all your soy foods, note that the operative phrase here is “large amounts” which, in laboratory science, can mean amounts substantially above what one would consume in real life.
Also at issue is that upwards of 90 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is grown using genetically modified (GM) seeds sold by Monsanto. These have been engineered to withstand repeated dousing with the herbicide glyphosate (also sold by Monsanto and marketed as Round-Up). According to the nonprofit Non-GMO Project, this allows soybean farmers to repeatedly spray their fields with Round-Up to kill all weeds (and other nearby plant life) except for the soybean plants they are growing.
The fact that genetically modified soy may be present in as much as 70 percent of all food products found in U.S. supermarkets means that a vast majority of Americans may be putting a lot of GM soy into their systems every day. And not just directly via cereals, breads and pasta: Some 98 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is fed to livestock, so consumers of meat, eggs and dairy are indirectly ingesting the products of scientific tinkering with unknown implications for human health.
Since GM soy has only been around and abundant for less than a decade, no one yet knows for sure what the long term health effects, if any, will be on the populations of countries such as the U.S. that swear by it. Natural foods stores like Whole Foods are your best bet for finding non-GM foods of all sorts.