Press release, Buenos Aires/Asunción/Amsterdam, Tuesday 22nd April 2008

The Round Table on Responsible Soy is seeking to legitimise irresponsible, socially and environmentally damaging soy production, according to a new report published today (Tuesday 22 April) ahead of the Round Table on Responsible Soy’s third conference in Buenos Aires [1].

The report, from a coalition of organisations working in Europe, the US and South America [2] reveals that the Round Table, which brings together industry with NGOs, will do little to prevent the expansion of soy production, destroying small scale farmers and natural ecosystems. Weak draft principles which allow the use of GM soy, combined with an expected lack of monitoring or enforcement, mean that so-called “responsible” producers will have to do little to change practice on the ground.

An Maeyens from ASEED Europe, one of the authors of the report, said:

“The Round Table on Responsible Soy is a greenwash exercise for soy producers, agribusiness and European food and feed companies to keep expanding their trade of transporting food stuffs around the world. Soy monocultures are not sustainable - and they should not be legitimised by “responsible” labels”

The report comes as organisations and movements from across Latin America and elsewhere have issued a damning attack on the Round Table ahead of the third conference for its attempts to establish criteria for “responsible” soy production [3]. They say that the only “responsible” way forward is to put a halt to the expansion of soy.

Stella Semino from Grupo de Reflexion Rural said:

“In Argentina, forests are burning because cattle farmers have been forced to find new pastures to make way for GM soy. As the Round Table meets in Buenos Aires to redefine the meaning of “responsible”, the intensive farming methods it relies on are depleting the soil, polluting the ground water and damaging wildlife.”

Javiera Rulli from the social research centre BASEIS in Paraguay said:

“The soy production boom in Paraguay is having devastating effects. Small landowners are being forced to sell their farms to the big producers because they cannot compete in this aggressive industrial market place. Rural communities that once grew their own food have been driven from the land into the cities where they struggle to find work and live in poverty.”

The damaging impacts of the booming trade in South American soy have been widely documented, the report says, with evidence showing that soy monocultures destroy rural economies, leading to land conflicts; as well as contributing to deforestation and biodiversity loss. The heavy pesticide use associated with soy production is contaminating water supplies and causing health problems for workers and communities living nearby.

The RTRS calls itself a “multi-stakeholder” organisation, but the communities directly affected by soy production have always refused to be involved. How, they ask, can they believe in solutions that are put forward by the very companies that threaten their livelihoods.

As things stand, the Round Table’s criteria will allow genetically modified RoundupReady soy to be certified as “responsible”.

Nina Holland from Corporate Europe Observatory said:

“Many Round Table members, including European business associations for the animal feed and vegetable oil industries, are currently involved in a misleading lobbying campaign in Europe to speed up approvals for new GM varieties and to allow unapproved GM produce to be imported into the EU.”

The report highlights the current imbalance in food production globally, with most vegetable proteins grown in developing countries for the benefit of animal farmers in the north and calls for a more sustainable approach based on greater food sovereignty.

The report says that countries in Europe and South America are paying the price of this damaging and polluting method of food production. It calls for a more responsible approach to feeding the world - based on more local production and less intensive farming methods. Rich countries need to look at their diet - and stop eating so much meat.

A civil society declaration against the RTRS was widely signed by organisations from the South and the North. Critical statements rejecting the RTRS process have also been released by Friends of the Earth International and the Global Forest Coalition.


Notes for the editor:

  1. The Round Table on Responsible Soy - a “multi-stakeholder forum” bringing together large NGOs with soy producers, holds its third conference on “Responsible Soy: Food, Feed And Fuel to a Future world” in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 23-25 April 2008.
  2. ASEED Europe, BASEIS, Corporate Europe Observatory, Grupo de Reflexion Rural, Rainforest Action Network
  3. - Statement against the 3th RoundTable on Responsible Soy, 22 April 2008.
    - Friends of the Earth International statement, The only responsible soy is less soy. The Roundtable on Responsible Soy frustrates real solutions, 22 April 2008.
    - Global Forest Coalition, Open Call to civil society organizations to withdraw from the Roundtable on Responsible Soy, 18 April 2008, (scroll down below notes for editors).


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