London/Brussels, 22 May 2012 - The first audit reports of soy companies certified by the Roundtable on Responsible Soya (RTRS) show a failure to achieve any social or environmental benefit, according to a new briefing published today ahead of the RTRS Annual Conference in London.
The RTRS is a voluntary certification scheme, formally launched in 2006, which has been severely criticised by organisations worldwide. Members include food and agribusiness giants including Cargill, Monsanto and Sainsbury’s, but also some NGO’s including WWF.
Following publication of the first 10 audit reports, GM Freeze, Friends of the Earth and Corporate Europe Observatory  have scrutinised the findings, which confirm that there is not one single benefit to RTRS certification. There is no evidence of protection against deforestation, or of reduced use of pesticides. Nor is there any benefit for small farmers in the areas certified. Some small charitable gestures are taken as evidence of ‘good community relations’, while the reports show that Roundup Ready and other pesticide spraying occurs as close as 30 metres from people’s homes.
The RTRS criteria have been described by campaigners in Europe as being a certifying smoke screen, misleading consumers and not providing any solution to ever expanding soy production. They are demanding that instead of relying on this smokescreen, companies in Europe must find ways to reduce their use of soy for animal feed and biofuels.
Pete Riley of GM Freeze in the UK said:
“RTRS standards do not improve any of the impacts of soy production – to be certified complying with local laws is all that is needed. This means farmers can go on growing genetically modified Roundup Ready soya in a manner that is highly damaging to the soil, environment and local communities. This simply cannot be described as matching the definition of responsible – ‘based on or characterised by good judgement or sound thinking’”.
Nina Holland of Corporate Europe Observatory says:
“European supermarkets should understand that consumers will not be fooled by this RTRS label which is merely greenwash. If they are serious about sustainability, they must develop alternatives to soy animal feed imports.”
The RTRS was accredited last year by the European Commission to certify biofuels to meet the EU 10% biofuel target, but so far none of the reports show that certified soy will be used as biodiesel for the EU market.
The flaws and failings of the RTRS certification scheme include:
- Weak forest protection measures dating back to just 2009.
- Certification of unsustainable genetically modified RoundupReady (RR) soya monocultures. RR soy is dependent on glyphosate for weed control which is causing an escalation of pesticide use to cope with weed resistance to glyphosate.
- Aerial application of glyphosate and other pesticides causing health problems for people living near soya plantations.
- Poor channels of communication with local farmers and communities
- Auditing processes which rubber stamp existing mediocre practices.
- Unsatisfactory ‘mass balance’ traceability which does not provide surety for European consumers about the methods of production used.
For more details about the RTRS and the auditing process please see our briefing, Roundtable on Responsible Soya - the Certifying Smoke Screen.
Calls to: Pete Riley (GM Freeze) +44 7903 341065
Nina Holland (Corporate Europe Observatory), +31 6 302 85 042
Kirtana Chandrasekaran (Friends of the Earth) +44 20 7566 1669
1. The Roundtable on Responsible Soya (RTRS) Annual Conference will be held at Park Inn Heathrow Hotel, on the 23rd and 24th May 2011.
To read the full assessment of the first 10 audits by GM Freeze, Friends of the Earth and Corporate Europe Observatory, see: Roundtable on Responsible Soya - the Certifying Smoke Screen