Most Soy Wax is made from GMO (Monsanto) Soy???

I’ve been busy making votive candles for personal and magical use. It’s been a wonderful learning experience and we’re almost ready to put them into production and make them available to customers.

Throughout the process, I’ve learned quite a bit and not just about HOW to make candles. I’ve learned that there are some pretty serious pros and cons regarding the type of wax used from an ethical and sustainable standpoint.

The 4 most common types of wax available (and affordable) from which candles are made are Palm Wax, Soy Wax, and Paraffin Wax and Beeswax.

Ideally, I had the notion that I would attempt to make affordable, Vegan (no animal product), all natural (no chemical additives) candles. This is much more difficult that you’d imagine!

Here is a break down of some of the information that I uncovered in my research. I’ve included the links to where I found the quotes:

Palm Wax:

Environmental Impact
Candle makers concerned with environmental issues have been aware of the problems with palm wax for many years. Desperate to improve economic conditions, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments have allowed palm producers to ravage the local environment.

“Between 1967 and 2000 the area under cultivation in Indonesia expanded from less than 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) to more than 30,000 square kilometers. Deforestation in Indonesia for palm oil and illegal logging is so rapid that a report in 2007 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said most of the country’s forest might be destroyed by 2022.”
– The Economist – “The Other Oil Spill”

The majority of that land has been cleared to grow the palm trees from which palm oil and then palm wax is derived. The land being clearcut is home to some of the oldest and most diverse rain forests in the world. The incredible rate of deforestation in Indonesia ranks it as one of the world’s largest CO2 emitters.
A Sobering Discovery
On June 24 2010, The Economist (a conservative English newspaper) published an article titled, “The Other Oil Spill” which examined the Asian palm oil market in detail. Unfortunately they found an industry filled with many companies whose production methods infringed on RSPO standards and Indonesian law. They discovered that while the RSPO is a respectable organization, it has virtually no control over the behavior of its members. Its lack of success in certifying sustainable oil has critics joking that RSPO stands for “Really Slow Progress Overall”.

What’s worse is that the article reveals that even ‘certified’ members of the organization (just 15 of 355 total members) only have to prove that a percentage of their supply is sustainable. So, even if you are buying from a certified grower, there is a good chance you’re getting tainted oil.

As soon as we saw the article we sent it to Sumi Asih and asked for their feedback, hoping that they would be able to provide proof that our supply of palm wax was different. You are reading this article now because they had no answer for us. Our support of palm wax ended the moment we received their response.


Soy Wax:

“Soy candles help our environment” – Not true! Our water systems in the United States are under severe strain. Many rivers no longer flow all the way to the sea; 50% of our national wetlands have disappeared and many major groundwater aquifers are being drained unsustainably by commercial soy farmers. Palm Trees use very little water as compared to tilled soy row crops. Soy requires annual tilling and crop rotation which scares away wildlife and beneficial insects which then increases the need for pesticides. Palm trees are an ancient perennial tree that require no tilling of the soil. Tree farms protect local wildlife – the higher the biodiversity the greater stability of the ecosystem. Palm trees are pest resistant and organically farmed. On an acre of land palm trees produce 10 times the amount of oil as soy. Palm oil produces twice the wax compared to soy oil.

“Soy Candles help the U.S. Economy” – Misleading. Soy candles sales are less than 1% of overall candle sales. In speaking with the three major soy wax producers, they are not sure that their soy wax can compete with palm wax prices. If the demand for soy wax decreases any further they can not afford to keep producing it.

“Soy candles made from only soy wax are 100% natural” – Not true! All soy wax is chemically distilled with hexane, then bleached with chlorine, deodorized with boric acid and then hydrogenated.

“Soy candles are made from 100% soy” – This isn’t always the case. Most soy candles are made from blends of soy plus paraffin, palm and beeswax. Since soy wax is not regulated, producers feel they can call it “soy wax” if it contains as little as 25% soy wax.


Soy and GMO
GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) have been created through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe. In the U.S. on the other hand, the FDA approved commercial production of GMOs based on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale. Many health-conscious shoppers find the lack of rigorous, independent, scientific examination on the impact of consuming GM foods to be cause for concern.
Monsanto supplies the majority of GM soy seeds.


Paraffin Wax:

Paraffin wax is a white or colorless soft solid derivable from petroleum, coal or shale, that consists of a mixture of hydrocarbon molecules containing between twenty and forty carbon atoms. It is solid at room temperature and begins to melt above approximately 37 °C (99 °F);[1] its boiling point is >370 °C (698 °F).[2] Common applications for paraffin wax include lubrication, electrical insulation, and candles. It is distinct from kerosene, another petroleum product that is sometimes called paraffin.

The feedstock for paraffin is slack wax, which is a mixture of oil and wax, a byproduct from the refining of lubricating oil.



Beeswax makes amazing candles and there are some suppliers that produce beeswax in an environmentally friendly and ethically way.  However, beeswax for candle-making is much more expensive than either Soy Wax or Paraffin Wax. A 2 oz votive made from each has a significant cost difference. If I were to make a color and scented votive from Soy Wax, the candle would sell for between $2.50 and $4.00 depending on the specific scent and amount of coloring needed. The exact same candle using beeswax would need to retail for approximately $8.95 – double or more. $10 pounds of Soy or Paraffin Wax costs roughly $80.00 but 10 pounds of beeswax comes in at just under $80.00.

Unfortunately, that means that producing retail candles made from pure beeswax is cost prohibitive.

Although Soy Wax is considered “Vegan” or “Vegan friendly”, the issue is environmental impact, chemical additives, and GMO. Those 3 issues are usually big button pushers for folks who are vegan and trying to live a sustainable lifestyle. Additionally, soy wax does not retain color or scent very well unless it has a number of chemical additives to make it so. The effect of that is that in order to have a color or scented candle, you get chemicals – and you also need to use more fragrance in order to get the same level of scent throw from Paraffin Wax. How important to you is it that most Soy Wax is derived from GMO (Monsanto) Soy?

Paraffin wax as the basis for candles has a lot of practical benefits (regulations, it’s a byproduct, consistency in quality, inexpensive and easy to work with). Unfortunately, it’s a petroleum product.

Given all the pro and con of wax type, I think that I will shelve the idea of beeswax candles. My personal preference is to stick with paraffin wax and obtain it from a reliable and ethical source. I will continue to experiment with Soy Was and poll my Vegan friends about the issues regarding Soy and the Soy industry.

Then again, perhaps I’ll start experimenting with blends. A 90% Soy & 10 % beeswax blend makes an amazing candle.

You’re opinions on this would be appreciated!

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