By Ilse Oeschlager - Demarest
Today, whether we like it or not, we all have a relationship with soy. Except for the "fashion" consumption of soy milanesas, soy juices, tofu (soy cheese) and sauce, our confrontation with this bean takes place quite invisibly.
I. Soy and its family
Today, whether we like it or not, we all have a relationship with soy. Some of us may know that "soy flour" (this is what the remaining product of the oil extraction process is called) is necessary for intensive animal husbandry, or that a wide variety of uses were found for soy lecithin. But to realize to what extent the world economy - the well-being of the industrialized nations as well as the survival of the less fit countries - has become dependent on this plant, we must examine the phenomenon more closely.
The soybean belongs to the legume family, also made up of other beans, lima beans, white (and red) clover, and peanuts. This family has a capacity highly valued by the farmer: capturing nitrogen from the atmosphere in the nodules of its roots (with the help of bacteria). In China, soybeans were planted for centuries in the year preceding the appropriate year for crop rotation. While nitrogen provides a backup for the following crops, the plant itself serves as animal fodder or green manure and its seeds as food for humans. In the West, clovers took over the nitrogen supply function. These plants encourage dairy production but, occasionally, can cause a cow to die from bloat.
The fact that legumes can fix nitrogen in the soil while other plants depend on it, is what places them by themselves in a special category, opposite to the rest of the plant world. Its growth pattern differs markedly from that of other plants. They lift their cocoons and seeds towards the sun and the cosmos in the best possible way. Then its growth stops and the plant dies after sowing. Legumes, however, by flowering and fruiting in the leaf region, continue to alternately produce leaves and buds without a pause. Their cocoons form a kind of helmet (helmet) containing hollow spaces - a gesture of retention, reminiscent of the way in which animal organs are formed during embryonic development. Its germination is also characteristic. Instead of sending the soybean a vertical shoot in search of free air, a bean neck emerges whose two ends, the root and cotyledonic poles, remain buried in the soil. The plant seems reluctant to leave the earth.
The soybean plant cannot tolerate weeds as neighbors. These must be extracted at least three times a year with appropriate herbicides (when plowing, at the beginning of spring and immediately after planting the beans). Under "competition" conditions, soy is sick. This antisocial tendency is reflected on the economic aspects, as we will see later. To avoid the danger of mold in humid weather, the harvest should go directly to the processing plant. There it can be dried and stored under optimal conditions.
The high protein content of this plant is its main attraction as a food. Protein is the "animal" substance produced around the seed, where the astral forces were most active. It took a lot of intelligence to make this plant edible. First, the beans are pressed to obtain an industrial oil with which margarine is made. Finding a use for the residual "paste" was not easy, because although animals eat it eagerly, it exerts a growth inhibitory effect. Only when the substances responsible for the obstacle were identified and extracted could "soybean meal" become the engine of intensive animal husbandry. Thus it was possible to "produce" pigs, poultry and cattle more quickly than with traditional feed formulas.
On the other hand, the prosperity of the industrialized world - which spends only a fraction of its income on food - is dependent on such processes. The mass production of animals fed "soybean meal" in combination with other grains produced intensively using artificial fertilizers, kept food prices artificially low and, simultaneously, fostered the development of gigantic food industries. Thus, our consuming society, with its waste of resources and growing sense of dissatisfaction, owes its existence largely to the previously unsuspected properties of soy.
Soy can satisfy our sense of well-being in many other ways. It is the main and cheapest source of lecithin, a food additive that ensures the smoothness of chocolate and prevents the crystallization of sugar. Fatty substances become "light". For example, with lecithin it can be achieved that margarine contains 20% water. Soy flour mixed with wheat flour prevents shrinkage in baking. The increased water content in baked goods makes them cheaper and keeps them crisp when stored. The soy protein isolate present in processed meat and chicken products prevents them from "shrinking" when cooked. Soybeans came to be used in medicine, cosmetics, the manufacture of paints and dairy products thanks to its ability to absorb substances and retain them well "held", to "subordinate itself" instead of asserting its own personality. His talent consists of creating illusions, useful for producing ice cream, sauce, fast food and pet food. It can mimic the taste, appearance and texture of almost any food that we could find on our table.
The talent that, with the help of modern industry, this plant possesses to supplant all other foodstuffs should not be ignored. The only question is to what extent it has become an impediment to the emergence and development of human soul forces. What will be your future influences on the evolution of the planet?
II: The history of soy in the 20th century
Here we will run into the same dynamic everywhere, as if this plant had an opportunistic genius to spread - to the point of becoming a factor in wars. It has been able to enlist a large portion of the intelligence and capacity of the world in the discovery and use of all its possibilities. Undercover behind her modest task of providing cheap but nutritious food for animals and in certain regions for entire human populations, she managed to "sneak in through the back door." But after emerging from the shadows, his demeanor turns bellicose. We can see it in these typical phrases: "capturing the market", "offensives", "strategic alliances", "political pressures", "battles won", etc.
The economic leadership of the US, established most in the course of the 20th century, is based not only on external power, but also on the fact that all the nations of the world ended up depending on this country in very different ways. Where this becomes a dependence on food - and in this regard, the US seeks through all possible means for such dependence to become absolute - soy is strategically positioned as an agent capable of influencing the physical constitution of people , which is the foundation of individual existence. What other plant but soy could have allowed a world domination to emerge that draws its power from the denial to populations, through diet, of the physical basis for clear thinking and independent and conscious action?
Today's pressure on world politics was preceded for decades by a patient and industrious society of interests. When the unsuspected possibilities provided by soybeans used as green feed and as nitrogen contribution to the soil became evident, the American Soybean Association (ASA) was founded, uniting industrialists, soybean producers and scientists. Every year, the cultivation extension is determined by mutual agreement according to the demand and the limit of government subsidies. In this way it was possible to keep prices at a constant low level, allowing the oil industry to wage a price war that gradually ended up displacing all competing products in the industry. The task of the scientists was to convert the remaining soybean paste into a product that would meet the demands of animal breeders, and to explore all possible further uses for this plant. In this way, a highly mechanized intensive farming method and mass rearing of animals could be carried out and perfected in the USA.
There are many factors that played in favor of soy. In the early (1920s), when there was an overproduction of wheat, corn, and cotton in the US, the government subsidized soybean cultivation in fields that would otherwise remain unproductive. The slow rise in the American standard of living, with its preference for white meat and vegetable fats, increased the demand for margarine and "soybean meal" for large-scale animal husbandry. Margarine, because of its low price, came to take its place alongside butter in the typical North American diet. Strong competition from cottonseed "balancing" magically disappeared when the government reduced cotton cultivation and continued to subsidize soybean cultivation. During World War II, soybean oil was able to replace those that it was impossible to continue importing. Even the Chinese socialist revolution gave a boost to American soybeans. The confiscation and reallocation of land eliminated any possibility of planned production, and very soon China was importing soybeans from the US.
Thus, the US became the only soybean exporting country. It is true that from 1970 Brazil and Argentina became real competitors but, economically, this worked positively. Meanwhile, all the countries of the world were initiated to the consumption of soy. Support for countries in distress by emergencies became a means of shedding excess production. Political ties with these countries were strengthened while the flow of merchandise - especially soybean oil - transformed the dietary habits of the populations. This ensured a stable market and economic dependence.
With regard to soy, the world is divided into two parts: one continent producing the plant and offering it everywhere in ways adapted to economic circumstances, and all the other continents, which have become totally dependent on the first for this basic support. for their standards of living. In 1973 the world suddenly felt the bitterness of such a drink. A year of flooding in Africa destroyed the peanut crop; Simultaneously, there was an unforeseen demand for soy from Russia. Because the area for soybean production turned out to be too small, the US had to face the dilemma of banning exports or facing a local shortage. The ensuing embargo on soybean exports generated panic in importing countries. The provision of inputs for the mass production of animals was put in check, with all the obvious economic consequences. Fortunately, the crisis was not as serious as anticipated. The export ban was relaxed, while Brazil emerged as a new supplier. However, although the resulting huge price increase declined after the crisis, the subsequent price ended up being 1.5 to 2 times higher than at the beginning.
For the past 20 years, European countries have tried to get rid of this dependency. They themselves plant soybeans where the climate permits (Italy provides 90% of European production), or they create new varieties that thrive in less favorable climatic conditions. The use of native plants or those imported from the former colonies is encouraged in the production of balanced products, but the result is far from conclusive. Despite the use of rapeseed, sunflower and peanut "flours", the demand for soybean meal in the European Union has not declined, currently representing around 70% of the total required. Efforts for autonomy prove futile as demand increases.
And the US is convinced that it must consolidate this situation in such a way that, whatever the circumstances, it can never be changed. Looking at the plight of various countries due to soy, we might be tempted to agree with the US that everything should remain as is. There really doesn't seem to be any rational way to change the situation. We can easily visualize how immense the suffering would be following any sudden collapse of the current system.
Japan is a typical case of how the prosperity of industrialized countries can depend entirely on soybeans. Japan accepted the North American arguments regarding directing all its industrial efforts towards the construction of oil plants. Due to the scarce local cultivation, they import beans from America. Thus, thanks to mass animal production techniques, they can assure their population of meat supply. Countries like Tunisia, a large olive oil producer that until very recently was a cheap source of oil for domestic consumption, are now importing North American soybean oil to mix with olive oil to meet local needs, and thus have more volumes of pure olive oil to export to the richest countries. We can see everywhere the same temptation to gain prosperity through soy while the possibility of achieving self-sufficiency is being dismantled.
Brazil is a perfect example of this. His policy of economic expansion through soybeans robbed the domestic market of all access to local production. Government subsidies favor large landowners; The expensive mechanization required for cultivation led small farmers, who previously provided food to the cities, toward overcrowding in peri-urban slums. As a result, in order to feed the population, the profit generated by the export of soybeans has to be invested in imports of wheat, beans, etc., largely from the US In 1973, Brazil decided to install oil plants to export processed products. These facilities proved too large for what was produced locally, so part of the soy to be processed had to be imported. But Brazil is not only an exporter; half of soybean production is consumed locally. The soybean meal goes to poultry farms all over the country (frozen chicken for Central Asia). So decisions regarding the percentage withheld for domestic consumption are being made at government levels. A miscalculation can generate popular insurrections or huge economic losses. In Brazil, soybeans have been a major factor in the extreme polarization of the difference in population income, which naturally increases social tension.
All over the world one perceives the weakness of the current system, which today should be providing "daily bread" for everyone. It is not only the oceans that separate producers from consumers or animals from the source of their forage, but also factories with their complex manipulations that bring food and feed to a state suitable for consumption. The diversity of policy measures, harmonized only marginally with economic considerations, constitutes a further disturbance. The slightest push can endanger the entire nutrition system, although we can still hope that close economic ties will calm international conflicts. Regarding the path that was imposed on it, the European Union declared without reservation that it is a path of no return.
What remains to be done? The interests that oppose political change, not even to mention the entire governmental system of our civilization, are too many. Even with the best will, there is little we can hope for in this regard. Only local, individual initiatives can provide a fresh start that does not depend on the government. And only a spiritual-scientific foundation gives agriculture the long-term power of resistance necessary to counteract the general trend that is standardizing every sphere of life, subjugating it to purely economic points of view. But it is also certain that any consumer who has managed to understand the value of food from such agriculture must take a firm stance that guarantees its survival.
* By Ilse Oeschlager - Demarest. Born in Stuttgart, she is a leader of the biodynamic movement in Chatou, Paris.
Article published in "wise traditions" of www.westonaprice.org