Zursun receives frequent questions about whether the beans we sell are Organic, Non-GMO or Gluten-free.
Below, we share owner Jim Soran’s email replies (in his own words) to customer inquiries about these issues.
Jim’s knowledge and philosophy is based on his experience as a second-generation dried bean packager-distributor with 60 years of family roots in the Idaho bean industry. Jim has spent the last 40+ years working with hundreds of bean farmers in Idaho and the larger U.S. bean-farming community.
For more reading download:
- Non-GMO Statement from the Bean Improvement Cooperative
- Bean Growing Practices Notes
- Idaho Soil Fertility and Bean Production
- I couldn’t find any specific information about your use of pesticides and/or any growth chemicals for your beans. Can you please be specific about what, if anything, you use? I’d need to know that before I purchase.
Thank you for your interest. My companies Zursun Ltd and Soranco Bean Products do not actually “grow” or maintain farms to produce the beans we distribute. We do however, work directly and personally with many, many farmers who grow and produce beans specifically for us. We receive their beans in the fall in a raw state and we perform the cleaning and milling and sorting to get them into condition for sale to the public.
We handle some seeds used to produce some varieties. Some varieties are grown in other states such as California, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, and Nebraska. Regarding any chemicals used in the production cycle I can only speak to the beans grown here in the Magic Valley of Southern Idaho. However, dry edible beans use far fewer agents in their production than many other crops.
There are two main areas where chemicals are used, one being fertilizers to promote vigorous plant health, and herbicides to destroy weed plants that would choke and kill the bean plants.
Typical fertilizer used is a combination of powered phosphates and nitrogen, with some potash and many growers also use animal manure from local dairy operations because it is prevalent and inexpensive. These are applied well before planting time and tilled into the soil and water is applied to balance out the levels.
Herbicides are also applied before planting to the soil and are specific in targeting certain weeds. Beans are planted several weeks later and from that point on weeds are controlled by cultivating where a tractor pulling a cultivating attachment moves through the bean rows and cuts and pulls any weeds from the soil. The typical brand names of these agents are, Sonalan, Eptam, Sevin, and Colmite. Not all are used; it is grower and area specific but most use Sonalan and or Eptam.
I am not a botanist or anything of the sort so I cannot comment on any possible trace amounts or residues that may be absorbed and present in the mature bean. This would of course require a scientific chemical analysis. There is likely to be some information available on the web. I have attached a document from the EPA which discusses the use and effects of Eptam. In brief page 31 of this report describing residuals left behind, found that any measureable amounts were less than, 5 one hundredths parts per million. (<0.05 ppm). For all intents and purposes this amounts to non-detectable or 0.
I cannot say whether this applies to the other possible agents that are used but for myself I’ve been around beans and bean farms all my life. I have never heard of any illnesses ascribed to beans and lentils grown using the typical chemicals we see. Also, all our bean and lentils seeds have been developed using standard plant breeding methods of single plant selection and mating to achieve more disease resistant plants with strong yield potential and of course the color and shape that is desired. No genetic modification is done nor is it practiced in the dry edible bean industry. I do not know if this holds true for Soy Beans. We do not grow or sell soy beans.
Obviously a completely organic growing method would be more comforting. The costs to the grower to grow organically are very high and to make it work they must choose specific crops that they know they can sell. Heirloom varieties are produced in such small quantities it is not possible to have them grown organically without taking very strong and risky financial positions on crops that may or may not have a market. Growers require fixed contracts to be paid no matter the circumstance, whether they get a crop or not. The pressure can only be managed by using conventional growing methods where we have more choices of growers to work with and the grower has better potential for good yields per acre.
I hope this helps you understand a little more about bean production and allay any possible trepidation you may have concerning trace chemical carryover. If you are of a mind that any amount is unacceptable than I would recommend you seek out strictly organically grown products. Good health to you and yours.
Good health to you and yours.
- It is a busy time of year. It would just ease my mind (as I’m cooking with your beans) to know that they are safe from poison sprays. They are beautiful and blemish free. They don’t need to be certified. I just want to hear about the conditions under which they are grown. It would give me comfort.
Thank you for your kind concern and questions.
In a nutshell, I for one do not have any concerns with dry beans grown using conventional methods. I believe there are far greater and more pressing risks to our health coming from processed foods, bacterial outbreaks, water and air pollution.
To me the greatest benefits of organic farming are to the soils and the water tables. The chemicals used for farming of all crops that is left in the soil is of great concern and much like global warming, it is a slow but ominous eventuality of potentially life changing affects.
The people of the world could not be fed if all farming converted to organic methods, and certainly there are millions of people who are underfed or even starving now.
I must admit that I am very cynical when it comes to the “Organic Movement”. I believe it is wrought with fraud and deception and is used by many solely to meet a market need and generate profits. There are many legitimate and ethical growers, producers, processors and purveyors of Certified Organic Foods. They have worked hard to produce the very safest foods possible, and people with the time, abilities, options and resources to consume and support these goods have every right to do so.
However, success breeds imitation and the quality standards and practices followed in the USA, may in other countries be replaced by something as little as a “rubber stamp” stating “Certified Organic”. The quality of any product be it food or otherwise, is only as good as the morals, ethics, and practices of the purveyor, along with the standards used and the methods of qualification and inspections. I don’t have many answers only a lot of questions.
Laura, please see the attached pdf of my notes on general dry bean growing practices.
Thank you and Merry Christmas!
- I am a vegetarian and have a question about how the beans are fertilized. Are heirloom beans fertilized using animal parts (not animal manure), but “animal parts/products?”
No, I have never encountered any information that would support beans being fertilized using animal parts or products. I’m wholly unaware of any such practice.
Some producers may use manure but it’s much more common for them to use chemically produced synthetic fertilizers containing Nitrogen, Zinc, and Potassium among others. Some bean fields will not require additional fertilizers at all.
I’ve attached a resource document on Idaho Soil Fertility and Bean Production.
- I am gathering information for our Food Co-op’s Product Research Committee on glyphosate being used as a desiccant before harvest on beans and grains, and I’m hoping you can tell me that glyphosate is not used on your beans and grains. Thank you for your help.
We do not now, nor have we ever used desiccant products in our beans or for any other purposes.
If desiccants are used at all for beans, I would guess it would most likely be in the high moisture growing areas of Michigan and/or North Dakota.
Their bean crops typically contain 16% or more MC (moisture content) at the time of harvest. They employ fans, dryers and dehumidifiers to bring the MC down and/or remain stable.
Personally, I’ve never heard of desiccants being used for beans in any growing areas.
I would think that it would be more common in grains, but I do not know.
I’ll see if I can find out more information on possible uses when I have a little time.
- Our restaurant is focusing on Non-GMO crops and sustainable practices. We are more concerned with responsible practices, than the label of certified organic, as we know the certification process is expensive and can sometimes be misleading. Do the farmers associated with your company use GMO crops, chemical fertilizers, insecticides, or herbicides? And if so, are there any products that do not fall into this category?
Dry Beans are All Non-GMO. And, as of 2016, Zursun is now Non-GMO verified.
However, regarding soybeans I do not know and we do not grow or handle soybeans at all.
Bean Breeding is still done with single plant selection and cross breeding of varieties with grow outs for each cycle to produce the coloration, shape, size and growing characteristics that are desired.
We do not offer any certified organically grown even though we are an Idaho State Certified Organic Handler. We process and condition several organic bean varieties that remain grower owned and marketed to their exclusive customers.
Our growers use common synthetic and natural fertilizers and minimal herbicides and occasionally pesticides, but the actual dry bean itself is never directly exposed to these agents.
I’m in my sixties and have been in and around my Father’s business all my life. I eat beans all the time and to my knowledge I never suffered any ill effects nor have I heard of any by others due to any carryover chemicals from beans. The bean skin is porous but much less so than say other garden crops such as lettuce, spinach or any leafy vegetables really. I realize this is of no scientific or statistical value but I firmly believe that dry processed Beans and Lentils are two of the safest foods you can consume.
Our growers are typically all family farms of small scale and they must practice sustainable agriculture because it is the only way they can guarantee the viability of their land to produce crops of several types. Crop rotation is always practiced to make use of natural element replacement such as nitrogen and zinc. Water usage is critically monitored always.
As I’ve told others who’ve questioned me about this subject before, if you are of a mind that any amount of synthetic or manufactured chemical usage is a deal killer, then you will have a very difficult time finding such products in more than a few select common varieties that are mostly sold to Organic Frozen and Canned Food manufacturers, i.e. Amy’s Kitchen.
I hope this helps your understanding of our products. If I can be of any further help please let me know.
- I was wondering if you grow any grains or if your beans would ever possibly come into contact with any grains? I have celiac disease and have trouble getting some beans that are not contaminated with wheat.
Thank you for your inquiry. We only clean and process dry edible beans in our facilities. We do not take in grains from growers, or from field production. The only grains we package are purchased from others already milled and cleaned.
We package those items exclusively in the Zursun small 24 oz. packages over one piece of equipment. We clean this small line thoroughly between every item and there is no residue of grains in any of our beans.
We are inspected by a third-party food safety company each year and we are an Idaho Certified Organic Handler. The organic regulations cover the proper cleaning, storage, inspection and auditing of all our packaging and bean processing equipment lines regarding product separation. We have not had any issues or problems with cross contamination of any products containing gluten.
In the case of lentils there will always be the slight chance of tiny particles of grains remaining in those items. Lentils are grown in the Northern Idaho Palouse Valley area and produced in fields that alternate with grains.
There is no way to insure the complete removal of every tiny particle of grain, however any possible remaining particles would be less than .1%. Our lentil items state this on the labels and as such are not to be considered “gluten free”.
Please rest assured that Zursun Beans are completely free of any gluten particles or residue.
I hope this helps.
All the best.
- I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease and need to eat food that has 20 ppm or less of gluten in it. I have your Cannellini beans. Are they gluten-free or were they processed/manufactured in a facility or on equipment that also manufactures gluten and therefore could be cross contaminated?
No gluten whatsoever. No chance of cross contamination since we do not clean or process any grains.
We do package a few grain varieties and we make sure our equipment is thoroughly cleaned between products.
Lentils (may) contain a trace (read tiny) amount of grain chaff from volunteer seeds in the fields. Dry beans do not share this issue so you can safely consume any of our bean varieties with no concerns as to Gluten.
Thank you for contacting us and I hope you’re able to successfully manage your condition. I’m sure it’s not easy.