Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

Ahold: RTRS certified soy means no improvement in soy production.

Last week, Ahold’s responsible man for ‘product integrity’ Hugo Byrnes received an impressive collection of 26.000 signatures of European consumers telling them to stop the greenwash of ‘responsibly’ certified soy.[1] This soy is certified by the standards of the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), set up by the WWF in cooperation with Monsanto, Syngenta, Shell, BP, Cargill and other corporations.



[1] The email petition was supported by a wide variety of groups including Friends of the Earth International, Global Forest Coalition, and Food & Water Watch.

 

 

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At the doorstep of Ahold’s sustainability office in Amsterdam, speakers from various organisations like FIAN (Netherlands) and Wervel (Belgium) highlighted the major flaws of the certification approach. In an indoors conversation beforehand, Byrnes had to admit that the only ‘advantage’ of participating in the Roundtable is ‘to be talking’ with the soy producers. But the criteria, which took 6 years to negotiate and millions of development aid, do not mean any step forward in terms of reducing the environmental and social impacts of soy monocultures. There are no results to show for when the first shiploads of certified soy will reach the European harbours this spring.

 

The RTRS is highly controversial with organisations around the world. But it is popular with the Dutch government who gives development aid to this project. In this way, they can guarantee business as usual for the factory farming and animal feed industry, as well as the interests of the Rotterdam harbour. Even though, as critics have said and Ahold now admits, the criteria are so weak that soy producers can meet them without making any effort for improvement.

 

Pesticide reduction targets are not set and therefore no pesticide use is reduced. All ‘responsible soy’ comes from existing plantations, including from some of the biggest producers around like Blairo Maggi in Brazil. But these companies are not forced to stop expanding elsewhere.

 

Even worse, highly damaging production methods (the ‘no tillage’ system of RoundupReady soy, meaning not ploughing and spraying all weeds to death with glyphosate or Roundup) are being praised for environmental ‘benefits’ in the audit reports. It is said to be beneficial for soil conservation and even as a way to cut down greenhouse gas emissions.[1]

 

The first audit reports on the RTRS website show that ‘community dialogue’ is an empty shell and is used to convince the certifying company about the charitative nature of the soy producer, who will have donated ’300 liters of milk’ to the local school for instance.

 

In exchange, the RTRS criteria allow such producers to even spray by airplane on top of people’s houses as long as people who live ‘within 500m’ of the spraying are warned in advance – very responsible. This is a standard far below for instance the Paraguayan law, and rulings of local courts in Argentina.

 

While the standard is opposed by hundreds of organisatios, a few Dutch NGOs besides WWF have let their name be associated with this project: Stichting Natuur en Milieu, BothEnds and Solidaridad. The person in charge of the project in the early days at Solidaridad, Jan Gilhuis, now works at the Dutch government’s initiative sustainable trade that has channeled millions of euros back to these same NGOs to support projects like the RTRS. This, while coalitions of NGOs from Belgium and Germany have highly opposed the RTRS, and even national WWF offices have reportedly written to WWF International to express their concern.

Further information:

An excellent article was published by Jonathan Latham of the Bioscience Resource Project on the true value of greenwash projects like the RTRS. Please follow this link:

 

http://independentsciencenews.org/environment/way-beyond-greenwashing-ha...

An informative animation video of 3 minutes in six languages explaining what’s wrong with the RTRS: http://bit.ly/toxicsoy-animation

 


[1] See for instance RTRS audit report Los Grobo, http://www.responsiblesoy.org/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_downl...

At the doorstep of Ahold’s sustainability office in Amsterdam, speakers from various organisations like FIAN (Netherlands) and Wervel (Belgium) highlighted the major flaws of the certification approach. In an indoors conversation beforehand, Byrnes had to admit that the only ‘advantage’ of participating in the Roundtable is ‘to be talking’ with the soy producers. But the criteria, which took 6 years to negotiate and millions of development aid, do not mean any step forward in terms of reducing the environmental and social impacts of soy monocultures. There are no results to show for when the first shiploads of certified soy will reach the European harbours this spring. The RTRS is highly controversial with organisations around the world. But it is popular with the Dutch government who gives development aid to this project. In this way, they can guarantee business as usual for the factory farming and animal feed industry, as well as the interests of the Rotterdam harbour. Even though, as critics have said and Ahold now admits, the criteria are so weak that soy producers can meet them without making any effort for improvement. Pesticide reduction targets are not set and therefore no pesticide use is reduced. All ‘responsible soy’ comes from existing plantations, including from some of the biggest producers around like Blairo Maggi in Brazil. But these companies are not forced to stop expanding elsewhere. Even worse, highly damaging production methods (the ‘no tillage’ system of RoundupReady soy, meaning not ploughing and spraying all weeds to death with glyphosate or Roundup) are being praised for environmental ‘benefits’ in the audit reports. It is said to be beneficial for soil conservation and even as a way to cut down greenhouse gas emissions.[1] The first audit reports on the RTRS website show that ‘community dialogue’ is an empty shell and is used to convince the certifying company about the charitative nature of the soy producer, who will have donated ’300 liters of milk’ to the local school for instance. In exchange, the RTRS criteria allow such producers to even spray by airplane on top of people’s houses as long as people who live ‘within 500m’ of the spraying are warned in advance – very responsible. This is a standard far below for instance the Paraguayan law, and rulings of local courts in Argentina. While the standard is opposed by hundreds of organisatios, a few Dutch NGOs besides WWF have let their name be associated with this project: Stichting Natuur en Milieu, BothEnds and Solidaridad. The person in charge of the project in the early days at Solidaridad, Jan Gilhuis, now works at the Dutch government’s initiative sustainable trade that has channeled millions of euros back to these same NGOs to support projects like the RTRS. This, while coalitions of NGOs from Belgium and Germany have highly opposed the RTRS, and even national WWF offices have reportedly written to WWF International to express their concern. Further information:An excellent article was published by Jonathan Latham of the Bioscience Resource Project on the true value of greenwash projects like the RTRS. Please follow this link: http://independentsciencenews.org/environment/way-beyond-greenwashing-ha...An informative animation video of 3 minutes in six languages explaining what’s wrong with the RTRS: http://bit.ly/toxicsoy-animation [1] See for instance RTRS audit report Los Grobo, http://www.responsiblesoy.org/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_downl...
 

Comments

Submitted by RTRSSOY (not verified) on

Hi,

Would just clarify that RTRS is a platform, where stakeholders can dialogue, and build consensus about soy production. Its not about defending some interest. The result of this dialogue was the RTRS standard 1.0...Its a standard where everybody has taken and given, not everybody is 100 % satisfied, and its also open for critique and change...RTRS is still a young organization, but will get better and more robust by the pass of time. The first RTRS farms are also just starting their transformation, and as you not know, RTRS farms needs to work with continues improvement under a time period of 3-5 years, if not they lose the certification. However, thus, making it very hard to active social and environmental benefits in just 1 year...Hope you understand...and you are welcomed to take part in the RTRS system as a Observing Member for further clarification...By the way have you ever visit an RTRS certified farm?

Submitted by CS Wright (not verified) on

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment or diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or in some contrivance to raise prices." - Adam Smith. Forgive me for being cynical, but if RTRS were delivering what it's PR claims, we would be seeing the results. We don't see the results. The RTRS label therefore appears to be nothing more than an exercise in corporate re-branding.

Submitted by Nina_Holland, CEO (not verified) on

Hi, it would be nice to know who is commenting, could you fill in your name please? In any case, it is no use to keep saying that RTRS is a young organisation and that things will improve.. RTRS has been going on since 2005, has not delivered a credible set of criteria, that have meant big steps away from the basel criteria that were already in place, that WWF could have promoted more. Now, for instance the deforestation cut off date has been moved forward from 2004 to 2009. See for more detail: http://www.corporateeurope.org/pressreleases/2012/audits-reveal-no-benef.... I have visited various farms of Grupo DAP that used to be the vice-president of the RTRS:http://www.corporateeurope.org/pt/publications/responsible-soy-paraguay-...

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