What do you want to know about Plenish® Soybeans?

Soybeans, oil, and meal. Image from the  United Soybean Board via Flickr.
Soybeans, oil, and meal. Image from the United Soybean Board via Flickr.

Soybeans are the source of the 61% of the vegetable oil consumed in the US. (SoyConnection) That makes sense, because the oil is in some ways a byproduct of animal feed: “a 60-pound bushel will yield about 11 pounds of crude soybean oil and 47 pounds of soybean meal.” (NC Soybean Producers) Still, soybean oil has some benefits of its own that justify its prevalence. Soybean oil is “low in saturated fat, contains no trans fat, and is high in poly- and monounsaturated fats. It’s also the principal source of omega-3 fatty acids in the U.S. diet, and the primary commercial source of vitamin E.” (SoyConnection)
Despite soybean oil’s benefits, there’s room for improvement. One of the biggest issues with soy oil is that it can turn rancid if it doesn’t undergo a process called hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil has a long shelf life, but contains trans fats, which have been linked to health problems. The November 2013 FDA call to phase out transfats had soybean farmers worried. Even the United Soybean Board recognizes that this is a big issue. So how can we reap the benefits of this high-yielding and healthful bean, but without negative health aspects?
Engineering a better bean is one way around the trans fat problem. DuPont Pioneer’s Plenish® soybean produces oil with “0g trans fat and the highest amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (oleic acid) available in soybeans under commercial development, 20% less saturated fat than commodity soybean oil and 75% less than palm oil, [and linoleic acid] content of less than 3% for increased oil stability. (Pioneer Hi-Bred)
Fatty acid composition of Plenish and commodity soybean oil. Image from Pioneer Hi-Bred.
Fatty acid composition of Plenish® and commodity soybean oil. Image from Pioneer Hi-Bred.

What do you want to know about Plenish® Soybeans?

The Biofortified Blog has arranged an interview with Ms. Susan Knowlton, a Senior Research Manager with DuPont and the lead of the DuPont Healthy Oils team (see her bio below). We’re excited to bring our readers an opportunity to ask questions of this experienced scientist. Please comment with your questions, which I will compile and send to Ms. Knowlton in about a week.

Susan Knowlton, image provided by DuPont Pioneer.
Susan Knowlton, image provided by DuPont Pioneer.

Susan is a Senior Research Manager with DuPont, and a founding member and technical lead of the DuPont Healthy Oils venture team. She has more than 25 years experience in the field of Agricultural Biotechnology. Susan has over 20 published articles in scientific journals and is an inventor on five patents.
For the past 20 years, Susan has managed various research functions within the soy quality traits group, which seeks to tailor crop compositions to improve the nutrition and functionality of food ingredients for consumer and food manufacturers.
Susan is responsible for the commercial introduction of Plenish® high oleic soybeans. These soybeans produce oil with exceptional stability and improved nutrition suitable for food service and food manufacture applications in which partially hydrogenated oils were traditionally used. These soybeans can also provide a sustainable, domestically-produced alternative to petroleum-based feedstocks for product formulation. Plenish® is the first soy-based biotech product with direct consumer benefits.


  1. Two questions.
    First, will this oil be available to the general consumer, and if so, how will we be able to tell it comes from these soybeans?
    Second, how does this oil compare to the coconut oil that is now so popular?

  2. How strong is the scientific consensus to indicate a greater consumption of oleic acid via soybean oil, as a contributor to cancer prevention?
    There is evidence suggesting cancer inhibition in vitro, and higher/lower risk in breast cancer in prospective analysis.
    I would like to know if they or any other research group is doing research on this with any animal model.

  3. Not so much a question, but a farmer viewpoint. My state, Indiana, is wanting to be a leader with these new soybeans. I haven’t looked into the programs for this year, but last year I believe there was a $.50/bu premium for Plenish beans if you grew at least 300 acres. That’s a pretty good incentive! But maybe not quite good enough for me because the nearest place I can take them is far enough away the premium would be partially eaten by the additional trucking over the local elevator. Don’t take that as a complaint though, but just an observation.
    Another interesting development. The company we raise popcorn for is beginning to think about also contracting soybean acres with their popcorn farmers. They are interested in processing their own oil so they can tailor the flavor to their products.

  4. Could you describe the process of getting the oil into separate components in a sort of brief way? Or can you point me to a good overview? That would be handy to have in discussions of this.
    And could you address if there is any non-soybean DNA or protein in the resulting oil?

  5. 1) How does this soybean oil compare to non-biotech high oleic soy, and how does it compare to Monsanto’s Vistive Gold?
    2) How can I get a photo like yours? I love it, it’s like glamor shots for scientists. I totally wish I had a photo like yours to represent my research!

  6. Mary, can you elaborate on this: “process of getting the oil into separate components”
    I want to make sure I am able to get the answer you are looking for, but I’m not sure what you mean.

  7. I guess it’s really 2 questions. Will oil be separated for the molecular properties of the different fatty acids–or is the total oil with improved levels of one type the goal? Will this also be separated from other seed components (I assume so, of course, but I just thought the separation process might be interesting to hear about and useful to have as a reference in discussions)?
    I’d be happy to hear anything about the processing of this soybean to its final product–there may be aspects I don’t know anything about at all.

  8. Could you share information on the genetic modification in the Plenish soybean DNA? What leads to the change in monounsaturated fat content?

  9. A couple of years ago, I was interacting with an Italian company making compostible plastic film using corn starch and high oleic sunflower oil. I sent them a sample of Monsanto’s high oleic soybean oil and the company said, after analysis, that it looked suitable. But they need at least 80% oleic. Can Dupont achieve this with Phenish? I have heard from other companies that there are other bioproduct applications for high-oleic oil, specially if it is also compatible with food usages.

  10. When a soybean plant is genetically modified with pitcher plant or other insectivorous plants by inserting DNA sagment into soybean DNA. Then which part of soybean will trap insect and produce digestive enzymes and how it will be done…???

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