In an effort to increase soybean production in the Southeast, the Georgia/Florida Soybean Association, a policy organization representing soybean growers, has partnered with Japan‘s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries in securing the exclusive rights to grow a soybean hybrid known as the L-Star in the United States.

            The agreement was announced last week during a seminar at the Georgia Department of Agriculture, which included presentations by Terry Hollifield, soybean association president, and by several Japanese companies involved with the initiative.  A variety of cakes and doughnuts made with L-Star soybean flour, as well as soybean oil, were available for tasting.

            Developed by the Japan’s National Agricultural Research Organization in 1990, the L-Star soybean has been “deodorized” to reduce the intense taste and smell associated with conventional soybeans – a major obstacle for marketers of soybean products in the U.S., said Mr. Hollifield.

            Production in the two states is to begin next year on a small scale with the harvest in southern states expected to ramp up to 100 millions bushels by 2008, he added.

            According to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service, 160,000 Georgia acres were planted with soybeans in 2002, down from a high of 2.4 million acres in 1982.  Much of the land has been converted to grow pine trees, which bring in more money for the farmers, Mr. Hollifield explained.

            But with American society becoming increasingly health conscious, both Japanese researchers and the soybean association feel it is a good time to begin marketing soy products as a healthier alternative to traditional dairy or wheat-based foods, he added.

            “The keyword for Georgia farmers is profit,” said Mr. Hollifield.  “Once they see the market for this soybean, they will grow it.”

            The L-Star soybean, though a hybrid, is not classified as a genetically modified organism, meaning that it can be exported to regions with barriers to trade in GMO foods, such as Europe, he added.

            Initially, the Macon-based American Soy & Tofu Corp., which produces soy-based food products for the U.S. market, is to maintain exclusive purchasing rights for the crop.

            The Georgia Crop Improvement Association is also providing inspection services to ensure against soybean crop cross-contamination, Mr. Hollifield said.

            For additional information, contact Mr. Hollifield at (706) 542-2351.  Contact Alec Sato with American Soy & Tofu at (478) 746-5115.