The history of the ubiquitous soybean begins in China. But the Chinese did not eat unfermented soybean products because they recognized them as quite toxic. In fact, the early uses of soybeans in China were for the nitrogen-rich root systems that worked to rebuild soil with crop rotation - not for eating.
The herbicide known as 2,4-D has had limited use in corn and soybean farming because it becomes toxic to the plants early in their growth. The new seeds would let farmers use the weed killer throughout the plants’ lives.
The ancient Asian practice of fermenting soybeans and eating soy in the form of curds called tofu makes a healthy diet from a plant that eaten almost any other way would make people ill. The soybean itself is a notably inauspicious staple food; it contains a whole assortment of "antinutrients" compounds that actually block the body's absorption of vitamins and minerals, interfere with the hormonal system, and prevent the body from breaking down the proteins in the soy itself. It took the food cultures of Asia to figure out how to turn this unpromising plant into a highly nutritious food.
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