Industry moves towards ethical soy standards

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 15th June 2010

Soy productsThe food industry has moved closer to responsibly-produced soy being available in the marketplace, with members of the soy sector agreeing to finalise new global standards to improve production.

Late on Thursday (10 June) the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS), held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, adopted voluntary sustainability standards that will help ensure that current soy production and further expansion of the crop will be done in an “environmentally sound and socially responsible way” – to avoid the clearance of forests and high conservation value areas.

The standards also call for soy production to avoid polluting the environment and creating social conflicts.

Cassio Moreira, coordinator of WWF Brazil’s Agriculture and Environment Programme and who also serves on the RTRS board, said: “We welcome the finalised RTRS standards, however, now we need to pull together to make the system work. The results of the field tests show that the standards are practical and can be implemented. Now producers need to start the certification process and buyers need to demand RTRS certified soy as soon as possible, so that the market starts moving and the share of soy under responsible cultivation expands.”

Moreira added: “Now that the production standards have been finalised, the RTRS must finalise its certification system to verify compliance with the standards and establish methods to trace the soy”.

Once this certification and traceability system is adopted, the RTRS estimates that responsibly-produced soy will be available as part of the next soy harvest in South American countries in March next year.

The RTRS also agreed to develop a voluntary annex for RTRS members that wish to produce or trade in soy that is labelled as GM free.

The agreement is the result of years of dialogue between the WWF, other NGOs, farmers, and the soy industry and was finalised at the group’s fifth annual meeting this week in Brazil. The RTRS currently counts more than 140 members, including major private interests in the soy industry, smallholder farmers, feed mill operators, traders, retailers, financial institutions, and social and environmental organizations.

The new standards, known as Principles and Criteria, require producers:

• To comply with the law and adopt good business practices
• To maintain good working conditions, such as paying workers the prevailing wage.
• To dialogue with surrounding communities, such as equitably resolving land disputes.
• Not to expand into native forests and other habitats with high value
• To engage in good agricultural practices, such as reducing soil erosion, water use and pollution, and the safe handling and minimising the use of agrochemicals.

The Principles and Criteria are available in full online.

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