Submitted to: Science
Publication Type: Literature Review
Publication Acceptance Date: June 12, 2009
Publication Date: July 10, 2009
Citation: Grusak, M.A. 2009. Tofu was just a start. Science. 325:150. Technical Abstract: How much soy have you eaten today? If you believe not much, then you'd better think again. Did you know that after 3,000 years of use as an important food crop in China, soybean production in the United States rose from only negligible harvests just a century ago to almost 90 million metric tons in 2006-2007? Did you know that a comparable rise in production has been witnessed jointly in Brazil and Argentina, but occurring over just the past 50 years? The diffusion of this versatile bean into diverse foodways and different agricultural economies throughout the world, and the range of factors that have influenced this diffusion, are chronicled in a series of invited chapters in The World of Soy, edited by Christine M. Du Bois, Chee-Beng Tan, and Sidney Mintz. While this book presents an informative historical account of the expansion of soy as one of today's major agricultural commodities, its true appeal is as an ethnographic case study on how a new food is accepted and incorporated into a society's food and agricultural cultures. In The World of Soy, the editors have done an excellent job of combining a series of chapters from diverse authors into a seamless read; one that provides an informative account of an ancient, but equally modern legume. As the world's population continues to grow, the competing uses of soy as human food or animal feed will surely be debated, especially as the food security and nutritional needs of humans becomes an increasing concern. The issues and ideas raised in The World of Soy should help readers understand the possibilities and the potential roadblocks that will enable soy (or possibly other crops) to meet the growing needs of humans in the coming century.