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2-Plants: Non-GE low trans-fatty acid sunflowers planted in the U.S.

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Hybrid sunflower oil free of trans fats
SOURCE: The Associated Press, by Betsy Blaney /
        Seattle Post-Intelligencer, USA
DATE:   7 Sep 2004 

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Hybrid sunflower oil free of trans fats

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Some farmers are placing their hope in a hybrid
sunflower seed that could help keep arteries clear and hearts pumping in
a nation smitten with snacks and processed food.

"It's a healthier oil," said Willie Wieck, 62, who started growing
sunflowers on his 450 acres in the Texas Panhandle in the early 1970s. He
switched to the new hybrid seed called NuSun a couple of years ago. It's
free of unhealthy trans-fatty acids and increasingly is catching on as a
cash crop.

"It's certainly a brighter spot out there," Wieck said. "They're a good crop."

NuSun is primarily sold to big food processors - not on grocery shelves -
and it's already used in some snack foods. Sunflower growers are counting
on a big demand in the next few years thanks to new food labeling rules.

Beginning in 2006, food packages must say how much trans fat is in a
product; the only labeling clue now is the mention of "hydrogenated oils."

The Food and Drug Administration approved the trans fat labeling
requirement last year, saying the change could prevent up to 1,200 cases
of heart disease and 500 deaths a year as people choose healthier foods
or manufacturers change recipes.

Trans fats are found in vegetable shortenings, and in some margarines,
crackers, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, salad dressings
and other processed foods. Studies indicate trans fats contribute to
higher levels of LDL cholesterol - the bad kind - which can raise the
risk of coronary heart disease, which kills more than 500,000 Americans
each year.

NuSun, which is not a genetically modified hybrid, was developed by
federal scientists in North Dakota about eight years ago. Shortly after
its introduction in 1998, consumers began eating chips and other snacks
fried in the oil.

The seed didn't get much fanfare at its introduction, mostly because
there were not large quantities available, said John Sandbakken, a
spokesman for the Bismarck, N.D.-based National Sunflower Association.

Optimism about the NuSun marketplace got a boost with the FDA ruling and
from results of a nutritional study by Penn State researchers that
indicated that NuSun compared favorably with olive oil for health
benefits. The research also suggested the sunflower oil could help lower
cholesterol levels.

The National Sunflower Association, which has trademarked NuSun, is
conducting a survey that is expected to show about half the 1.9 million
sunflower acres planted in the United States this year are NuSun,
executive director Larry Kleingartner said.

Before NuSun, sunflower growers had long been dependent on selling their
oil in volatile markets overseas, exporting about 80 percent. Now, about
70 percent of the oil stays in the United States, Sandbakken said.

Texas ranks seventh in the nation for sunflower production, with 44,000
acres of different varieties planted this year. Other sunflower-producing
states include North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Minnesota,
Nebraska, and California.


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