Soybeans provide oil and protein, and appear in a large variety of processed foods. Soybeans were a crucial crop in eastern Asia long before written records, and were first introduced to Europe in the early 18th century, but they did not became an important crop outside of Asia until about 1910.
Soybeans use some 3-7% of the nutrients applied to agriculture. Very roughly, in the latest years, rice received about 1% of the nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops, 2-8% of the phosphate fertilizer, and a similar percentage of potassium fertilizer.
Soybeans are one of the “biotech food” crops that have been genetically modified, and genetically modified soybeans are being used in an increasing number of products. The number of genetically modified soybeans cultivated for the commercial market in the United States grow from some 8% of all soybeans in 1997 to 93% last year.
Soybeans are a 40-50 billion US$ market, ranking in 2008 in the eight place among the agricultural commodities by value. About a third of its production is traded to others countries, being the main producer and exporter the USA, followed both in production and exports by Brazil and Argentina.