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. 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.
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.
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.
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:
An informative animation video of 3 minutes in six languages explaining what’s wrong with the RTRS: http://bit.ly/toxicsoy-animation
 See for instance RTRS audit report Los Grobo, http://www.responsiblesoy.org/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_downl...