Brussels/London/Amsterdam, Tuesday 8 March - Supermarkets across the EU are being urged to boycott products containing soy labelled as "responsible" ahead of the introduction of a new EU-wide labelling scheme. A coalition of environmental and civil society groups have written to supermarkets and food companies across Europe including Unilever, Sainsbury’s, Carrefour and AHOLD, highlighting the reasons for their opposition to the Roundtable on Responsible Soy's plans .
Soy, imported mostly from South America , is used widely in Europe as animal feed and to produce biofuels but it is responsible for a host of negative environmental and social impacts in the countries that grow it. The Round Table on Responsible Soy aims to lessen this damage but it will label genetically modified soy, grown on deforested land as responsible . Last year, Eurobarometer found that 61% of the population in Europe did not want GM food .
Kirtana Chandrasekaran, food sovereignty programme co-ordinator Friends of the Earth International, one of the signatory groups, said:
“The Roundtable on Responsible Soy criteria are so weak that they allow soy plantations to expand at the expense of small-scale farmers, forests, and other important ecosystems. Massive spraying of pesticides will continue, with resulting damage to health and the environment.”
The RTRS is a big agribusiness-led initiative with members including agrochemical multinationals Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont; grain dealers ADM, Bunge, and Cargill; energy giants Shell and BP; founded by conservation NGO, World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The campaigners’ letter calls for support for the development of home grown animal feeds as alternatives to soy imports. Today (Tuesday 8 March), the European Parliament is voting on a report on animal feed in the EU, including the dependence on imported vegetable protein. The report calls on the EU to help farmers to produce more animal feed locally, which will “improve farmers’ revenues and address the key challenges agriculture is facing, such as climate change, the loss of biodiversity and soil fertility”.
The European Commission is currently assessing whether voluntary certification schemes like the RTRS can be used to certify agrofuels for the much-criticised EU 10% agrofuel target .
Heavy use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of herbicide- resistant weeds, resulting in a sharp increase in the use of Roundup and the use of more stronger weedkillers. Endosulfan, Atrazine and Paraquat are among the highly toxic pesticides that are mixed with Roundup and sprayed on soy fields.
Reports of escalating rates of birth defects and cancers in GM Roundup Ready soy-producing areas gained scientific weight last year with the publication of research by Prof Andres Carrasco, lead researcher of CONICET, the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research, Argentina. Carrasco’s team found that Roundup and glyphosate cause birth defects in frog and chicken embryos in doses much lower than those used in agricultural spraying.
While the voluntary RTRS-label implies that members respect labour laws, RTRS member companies Nidera, Monsanto, and DuPont/Pioneer (indirectly member via AAPRESID) were recently found by Argentine authorities to keep workers in slave-like labour conditions.
Nina Holland from Corporate Europe Observatory said:
“Supermarkets attempting to sell this lie of ‘responsible’ soy to the public are making a big mistake. It will be seen as an attempt to greenwash an unsustainable industry. We say to retailers and other soy buyers: ‘Don’t buy the lie.’”
For more information:
Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory, Mobile: 0031 6 30285042, email: email@example.com
See also public petition where everyone can send a message to 60 retailers across Europe to boycot RTRS soy:
Points for editors
 For the letter to retailers in the UK, please see http://bit.ly/RTRSmisleading
 Around 34 million tons of soy are imported into the EU each year. Most goes into animal feed for factory farms. A growing amount of soy oil will be used to meet the EU biofuel target. Much of the soy is grown in large monocultures in South America on land that has been stripped of forest, native vegetation, food crops, and gets depopulated as rural communities disappear. Most soy used for animal feed is genetically modified (GM) to withstand being sprayed with large quantities of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (based on the active ingredient glyphosate). RoundupReady soy was first imported in 1996.
 For sources for the facts and figures in this press release, please see the RTRS background briefing by GM Watch, Friends of the Earth and Corporate Europe Observatory here: http://bit.ly/RTRScriteria
The RTRS is currently being assessed alongside 15 other schemes. However the EC is refusing to make public any information on these schemes, including even just their names. Four organisations including CEO have demanded access to documents regarding this process, so far without success.