As part of the Big Greenwash Circus organised by Belgian climate campaign group Climaxi last weekend, the Round Table on Responsible Soy was nominated for a Greenwash award.
At the event, 'Silence of the Panda' by Wilfried Huismann was screened for the first time in Belgium. This film, currently forbidden in Germany, focuses on the pro-industry strategies followed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), accused by many of helping corpotations to greenwash their image with flawed ‘green’ labels. Parts of the movie are available on youtube.
After the screening there was a debate between Huismann, WWF International's PR man Phil Dickie and the audience. Dickie said that WWF was “open to scrutiny”, however it has never responded directly to any of the many international statements against the RTRS. A WWF handout claimed that RTRS certified soy "safeguards the rights of communities" and "observes safeguards on agricultural chemicals" yet there is nothing in the criteria to ensure that. The criteria do not even prevent deforestation, and do not reduce pesticide use. The first audit reports show, in fact, that soy producers hardly have to make any changes at all to obtain a ‘responsible’ label.
WWF has filed 14 complaints in German courts against Huismann's book, ‘WWF Blackbook’. It has not been banned, but large distributors like Amazon have stopped selling the book fearing of legal battles. Nevertheless, the book sold 10,000 copies in just a few weeks after extensive media coverage in Germany’s national newspapers (see below for a list).
In one of the interviews in the film, a representative from WWF in Papua New Guinea explains how WWF helps oil palm plantations to find areas for expansion. He says that indigenous people living in the area who agree to accept money in return for selling and leaving their land, “have understood that they can live of that money for 50 years without working”. Dickie says the man was wrongly translated, but Huismann asked why WWF had not made a complaint about that.
In a workshop on greenwash around soy and GMOs, a lively debate evolved around one of the other nominees for the Greenwash award, a Belgian project by the mainstream farmers association to promote ‘local’ industrial pig meat, produced by feeding the pigs RoundupReady soy causing devastation in South America. It became very clear how mainstream farmers in countries like Belgium are forced into the race to the bottom by farm policies and the banks that they are indebted to. This project won the Greenwash award.
Media coverage in Germany on WWF and Huismann’s film and book:
English version: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/wwf-helps-industry-more-than-e...
Frankfurter Algemeine: „Der WWF ist schizophren“
Sueddeutsche Zeitung: Umweltstiftung WWF in der Kritik. Die dunkle Seite des Panda
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung: Druck auf Buchhändler
Die Welt: Die Macht hinter dem Panda
Zeitpunkt: Kampf dem grünen Wischiwaschi
Stern: WWF kämpft gegen kritisches Buch. Die Schattenseite des Pandas
TAZ: WWF-kritisches Buch aus dem Sortiment genommen