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Bean crushers advocate 100% natural processing of soybean, oilseeds

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The momentum behind the Natural Foods movement has caused tectonic shifts in the way we bring food from the farm to the table.  However, one critical link in the supply chain has remained unchanged – the way Big Food processes oilseeds, specifically soybeans.

“When the consumer chooses a non-GMO food product, they trust that it is a Natural Food product,” said Mark Schuett, who has owned an organic and non-GMO oilseed processing plant since 2000.  “The Big Food companies are still using a hexane extraction process to chemically process oilseeds.  Hexane is a carcinogenic, neuro-toxic chemical that has no business being in the supply chain of Natural Foods.”

“The problem is,” Schuett said, “The American consumer has no knowledge of this.  When the Natural Food consumer wakes up to this, they will demand a 100% natural process.”

To that end, Schuett and a group of similar Natural processors have formed the Natural Oilseed Crushers Association (NOCA) “to promote the Natural processing of all non-GMO oilseeds, and to create awareness and transparency of all non-GMO food processing,” according to the company’s website at NaturalCrush.org.

The association’s base membership is comprised of Natural oilseed processors who typically use conventional, expeller press crush methods to produce oil and meal .  Soybeans comprise about 60% of the world’s oilseed crop output, with soybean oil being consumed daily by virtually every American in products like margarine, shortening, salad and cooking oils.  The soybean meal is the most important source of protein for poultry and livestock.

In order for poultry and livestock to qualify as “non-GMO certified”, the animals cannot consume genetically modified soybean meal.  As more consumers are attracted to meats that are certified non-GMO, poultry and livestock producers have begun to raise non-GMO livestock.  Unfortunately, most of the non-GMO soybean meal is processed through the hexane extraction process favored by the Big Food producers.

“This doesn’t make any sense to the farmers, to the livestock producers, or even the retailers, many of whom aren’t aware of this practice,” said Schuett, who is NOCA’s first president and spokesperson.  “But the real victims here are the Natural Food consumers who put their trust in our labels, and there are no labelling laws that speak to the hexane processing.  This is an issue that threatens the credibility of the whole Natural Foods industry.”

While Schuett, who is the founder and president of American Natural Processors, Inc., will serve as the president, NOCA has announced that Patrick Conners will have day-to-day responsibility of managing the trade association as its Executive Director, headquartered in St. Louis.  Conners started his career as a journalist and has spent the past 20 years in various marketing and strategic management positions in various industries.

“This is a compelling cause because on one side you have these small natural crush operators – most of whom are on the cutting edge of sustainable agricultural practices, and who fit perfectly into the natural food supply chain,” Conners said.  “And on the other side you have Big Food.  Our objective is to bring transparency to the processing of oilseeds and give people a choice.  We think that if the retailers and consumers understand the difference, they will choose a Natural Crush process.”

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