Image Amy Wilson, CSIRO Creative Commons 3.0 License

Problems with Soy

It has come to light that soy production decimates vast swathes of rainforest. Of course, we are talking about industrial production and not smallholder farming and more ethical organic providers. According to the WWF, global soy production has risen sharply from 130 million tonnes in 1996 to 270 million tonnes in 2012. What’s more, they predict a massive rise to 514 million tonnes by 2050. That’s a whopper of an increase.

But what is all that soy being used for?

A while back (maybe 10 years or more) Greenpeace attracted worldwide focus on the damage of huge swathes of the Amazon in Brazil. The focus of their campaign was soybean production. Since then, Greenpeace have achieved much –  including a moratorium on soy bean production in Brazil. Yet soybean production continues to endanger wildlife and biodiversity. Additionally, it adversely affects people, the global climate, water reserves and soil quality.  In South America, soy production contributes to almost 4 million hectares of deforestation each year, according to the WWF. The choice to replace meat with soy  as a staple for environmentally-friendly vegans all over the world was possibly not so eco-friendly.

The Link Between Soy and Livestock Farming

However, the main target of blame for such devastation is on heavily soy-dependent livestock farming. In South America some 3.5 million hectares of soy cultivation area exists. This requires extensive logging. Fowl, pork and also various other animal feed makes up 75% of soybean use.

A WWF  reports said that soy is needed to generate meat as well as dairy products eaten by the ordinary individual in Europe. A European eats 18.6 kgs of poultry as well as 214 eggs in one year, which requires 27.8 kilos of soy to create. The European Union is a significant importer of soybean, yet China is without a doubt the biggest customer. And the amounts are expected to grow. The boost will certainly originate from a greater need for animal feed many thanks to development in swine and also fowl farming on a massive industrial scale.

The problems, perhaps, though may not be livestock farming, per se but our over-reliance on meat products and industrial-scale farming. Do we really need animal proteins? Can we limit our consumption of them? This suggests that we should definitely limit our consumption of animal consumption, especially with a rising population. The earth cannot sustain this demand.

The Vegetarian and Vegan Choice – Soy.

Often called the ‘king of beans’, the protein in soybean has a much bigger abundance of crucial amino acids compared to many various other foods. For this reason, it’s a big favourite with vegans and vegetarians. However, what are the problems with soy?

Well, historically speaking, the soybean was originally used via  fermentation methods, at some point in the Chou Dynasty in 12th century China . The very first soy foods were fermented items like tempeh, natto, miso, and also soy sauce.

Problems with Soy – Enzyme Inhibitors

Later on people found that a purée of prepared soybeans mixed with calcium sulfate or magnesium sulfate could make tofu or bean curd.  The Chinese did not consume unfermented soybeans as they did various other vegetables such as lentils. Why didn’t they do this? Well,  according to studies soybean includes huge amounts of  toxins  or “antinutrients.”  These include powerful enzyme inhibitors that block enzymes from digesting protein effectively. Even the cooking process does not completely de-activate them. They could generate severe stomach distress, decreased healthy protein food digestion and also persistent shortages in amino acid uptake. Eating soy could lead to a higher cancer risk, according to cancer charities. 

Problems with Soy – Depressed Thyroid Function

Soy also contains goitrogens – substances that can depress thyroid function. Other goitrogens include cruciferous vegetables like brocolli and cauliflower, but proceesed foods with laden with chemicals are the biggest offenders. Soy is predominantly GMO and therefore is likely to contain a lot of pesticides. Another reason to limit soy consumption, grow your own, or source organic types. Otherwise, perhaps use fermented soy like tempeh or miso.  The fermentation process shuts down the growth-depressant substances.

There are other arguments for not replacing animal protein with soy proteins – you can find more information in this article.




With inadequate research and the fact that big industry sponsors most of it, the jury is definitely still out as to whether we should avoid unfermented soy altogether. But definitely the ethical consumer should consider the source of this protein. Are you contributing to global deforestation? 


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