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‘Responsible soy’ nominated for Belgian Greenwash award

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:

Der Spiegel:
English version: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/wwf-helps-industry-more-than-e...

Frankfurter Algemeine: „Der WWF ist schizophren“
http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/umweltschutz-der-wwf-ist-schiz...

Sueddeutsche Zeitung: Umweltstiftung WWF in der Kritik. Die dunkle Seite des Panda
http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wissen/schwarzbuch-wwf-die-dunkle-seite-des-p...

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung: Druck auf Buchhändler
http://www.faz.net/-gpg-70bas

Die Welt: Die Macht hinter dem Panda
http://www.welt.de/106407074

Zeitpunkt: Kampf dem grünen Wischiwaschi
http://www.zeitpunkt.ch/aktuell.html

Stern: WWF kämpft gegen kritisches Buch. Die Schattenseite des Pandas
http://www.stern.de/wissen/natur/wwf-kaempft-gegen-kritisches-buch-die-s...

TAZ: WWF-kritisches Buch aus dem Sortiment genommen
http://www.taz.de/!94573/

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Submitted by Phil Dickie (not verified) on

As I noted, the issues of potential for greenwashing, of agricultural chemical abuse and of excluding community interests are real ones that WWF is well aware of and is grappling with. Maybe you can help us do it better. However, this documentary and the associated book with their fragile factual base http://bit.ly/Khj0iV are not useful platforms for conducting such a discussion. For instance, the reality behind the West Papua interview you have mentioned here is WWF work with indigenous tribes in the area to safeguard their interests in the face of a government mega-project which WWF also opposed. It is quite a stretch to turn mapping where development should not occur into "helping oil palm plantations find room for further expansion". The interview, lifted from an earlier documentary, is overlaid with a voiceover that transforms a conversation about who owns land in a small area of Merauke into "evidence" of WWF complicity in a grand plan to inflict nine million hectares of palm oil plantations on West Papua. Depending on which version of the documentary you watch, WWF has done this through a contractural arrangement with industry, or an agreement with the provincial government. Either proposition is ludicrous and the nine million hectare figure might come from wildly optimistic old government projections for all Indonesia and mainly not in West Papua. WWF International is not a party to any litigation in Germany, but dealing with this scale of nonsense masquerading as journalism is difficult - and it doesn't help the discussion of the real issues.

Submitted by Nina Holland on

As far as I have understood, WWF Germany has not complained about this part of the movie, but this we can check. 

Instead of introducing a label for soy produced for animal feed and agrofuels, WWF could have taken a different route to reduce meat overproduction and replacing soy as feed.

Could you state clearly whether you can confirm that this year's certified soy has:

- not stopped any deforestation

- not reduced any pesticide use

- not entailed any meaningful dialogue with local communities or address of their problems living around soy fiels?

Submitted by Phil Dickie, WW... (not verified) on

The urgency of the problems around the rapid expansion of soy cultivation demands a response through all the available mechanisms and WWF is active in several. WWF is confronting deforestation directly through on the ground projects and advocacy with governments in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and elsewhere. Some WWF offices are also campaigning for more appropriate consumption of animal proteins, suggesting that following the guidelines of health experts would add to individual health as well as to overall society and environmental health. In Germany for example, the German Society of Nutrition recommendation is for meat consumption at about one third of current levels.

Acting across the soy supply chain to develop a market for more environmentally and socially responsibly produced soy through active membership of the multi-stakeholder Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) is an important strategy for WWF, but not the only one.

The first RTRS certified soy became available on the market only a little over a year ago. This means we are finding ourselves at the beginning of a process that involves working with the standard setting organisation as one stakeholder at the table to ensure continuous improvement of standards and developing a market that demands better, more sustainable products. The bulk of benefits will accrue over time as we continue to lift the standards further and the market share of more responsibly produced soy rises

Some chemicals have been banned and an RTRS working group is negotiating the phasing out of more. The RTRS further works on creating maps with no go areas for soy expansion to protect areas of particular environmental and social importance. The RTRS also works on improving community consultation to further reduce the social impacts of soy expansion. An example that illustrates well how the RTRS is set up to work can be found here: http://bit.ly/LVohwS

Some rightly drew attention to the unevenness in the quality and consistency of the initial set of audit reports - this is now among a number of improvements that WWF is urging on the RTRS. But the very existence of independent audit reports being made available for public scrutiny illustrates advance - this sort of transparency for a mainstream standard is new to the industry.

We might all wish for an overnight transformation of the entire soy industry. The processes and incentives for continuous improvement being put in place through the RTRS mechanism are not and cannot be the whole answer but we believe they are an important part of it.

Submitted by Nina CEO (not verified) on

The audit reports show that with the first RTRS soy no deforestation has been prevented, no reduction of pesticides achieved, and no real dialogue with local communities has been held. This is not the 'beginning of a process' as you suggest, this is 7 years on in a process started in 2004/2005. In all those years the animal feed industry along with seed and pesticide multinationals have been able to greenwash their image while not doing anything else to improve the situation. The RTRS is even facilitating the EU to meet its 10% target on agrofuels, only further increasing the market demand and the devastation. WWF is directly responsible for this.

With regard to your work 'on the ground' to stop deforestation in these areas, we are interested to know more about this. Please send me a list of concrete recent examples where you have stopped deforestation where otherwise soy plantations would have expanded.

This older example shows the role played by WWF in one such case in a soy expansion area in North West Argentina:

The Pizarro Reserve up for sale
The Pizarro Reserve, situated in the department of Anta in the Province of Salta, was established
in 1995 and covered 25,000 hectares. This reserve allowed the conservation of biodiversity in the
transitional zone between the Yungas cloud forest and the semi-arid Chaco forest. The Pizarro Reserve
was home to a group of Creole families and a Wichí community. In 2004, the governor at the time, Juan
Carlos Romero, canceled the protected status of the Pizarro Reserve (Provincial Law No 7274) and put
more than 16,000 ha up for sale. The provincial government planned to use part of the money raised
by the sale for paving Route 5 and 30, which are used for soy transport.
After the sale in June 2004, the national government, through its National Parks Agency, bought one
parcel to relocate the Creole and Wichí communities. Under strong pressure from the authorities, these
communities ended up signing relocation agreements, in which they were allocated areas much smaller
than the ones they previously used. The reshaping of the National Reserve of nearly 22,000 hectares
took place in a closed meeting with the participation of Greenpeace, Pro-Yungas and the National Parks
Agency. As a result of this agreement, Greenpeace and WWF Argentina withdrew their lawsuit against
the provincial government.
However, the National University of Salta (UNSa) was completely opposed to these negotiations, argu-
ing that the sale of the reserve was unconstitutional.13 The UNSa maintained their lawsuit against the
provincial government at the Supreme Court, but so far without a resolution. Marta de Viana, Director of
the Institute of Ecology and the Human Environment of the UNSa, believes that: “The Pizarro case is a
great failure, that still has not been resolved. Ex-governor Romero should buy the reserve back with his
own money, since it was illegally sold under his responsability. He should also fund the costs of turning
this area back to its original state, when it was a forest, remove the soy and make a reserve area again. “
In October 2008, three years after the appeal made before the Court of Salta by the Wichí community
of Pizarro, whose demands had so far been rejected, the National Supreme Court issued a favorable
ruling. The community had asked the court to declare the entire process of selling the plots of the former
reserve unconstitutional. While the Court of Salta had declared that the deadline for challenging the
procedure had expired, the Supreme Court overturned that ruling, arguing that the Provincial Court “has
established a ruling incompatible with the aims of these appeals of legal protection, i.e., ‘the immediate
supervision of the human rights that are covered in the Constitution’.” (Nuevo Diario de Salta (NDS),
2.10.8). This ruling may be relevant for the legal claims of the UNSa.
http://lasojamata.iskra.net/files/Soy_Expansion_Northwest_Argentina.pdf

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