Last time I was interviewed for BBC Radio London, the presenter asked if soya foods were safe, then fell about laughing saying he didn't want to grow man-boobs. I've been asked if soya is safe for babies, can it interfere with the thyroid, does it contribute to deforestation, some people even think it may cause cancer...
Soya is the great divider; you're either for it, or against it. Is this humble pulse really such a demon bean, or is the anti-soya brigade using scare stories and pseudo science to further their own agenda? If you look carefully, most anti-soya stories can be traced back to one single group in the US called the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF).
WAPF claims to be dedicated to promoting good nutrition by restoring nutrient-dense animal products to the diet - particularly unpasteurised "raw" whole milk. It claims that saturated animal fat is essential for good health and that animal fat intake and high cholesterol levels have no link with heart disease or cancer. They say that vegetarians have lower life expectancy than meat-eaters, and that historically humans have always eaten large amounts of animal fat. All this, of course, contradicts all the leading health advisory bodies in the world, including the World Health Organisation, American Dietetic Association and the British Medical Association.
This US-based fringe organisation is bent on citing scientifically flawed studies to promote their own agenda and has influenced a vast number of consumers, duping them into thinking of soya as some sort of dietary pariah.
The soya story dates back to New Zealand in the early 1990s, when a successful lawyer, Richard James, a millionaire on a mission, approached toxicologist Mike Fitzpatrick and asked him to investigate what was killing his expensive parrots (very Monty Python, I know). Anyway, Fitzpatrick agreed it was soya and has since campaigned vigorously against it as a food for humans -nonsense, since people have been eating soya for 3,000 years.
I have been interviewed for Radio New Zealand with Mike Fitzpatrick who campaigns against soya there. He was so aggressive they couldn't broadcast the interview. Fitzpatrick is a supporter of WAPF (actually an honorary board member).
Another of the organisation's supporters is a man called Dr Stephen Byrnes, who published an article in the Ecologist magazine claiming that vegetarianism is unhealthy and is destroying the environment. He boasted of his high animal fat diet and robust health - and, unfortunately, died of a stroke at 42. There were more than 40 scientific inaccuracies in the said article, including the direct misquoting of scientific studies. Incidentally, the editor of the Ecologist, Zac Goldsmith, is also an honorary board member of the WAPF.