Round Table on Responsible Soy: IUCN NL sets the scene

On June 11 and 12, the Round Table on Responsible Soy’s annual conference addresses issues vital to the ongoing progress on sustainability of its members and wider global stakeholders. Heleen van den Hombergh, Senior advisor on agro-commodities at IUCN NL will set the scene.

Header photo: Heleen van den Hombergh at the Round Table on Responsible Soy

Based on three recent studies, Heleen van den Hombergh presents the current state of certification and how it relates with soy consumption in Europe as well as a benchmark of sustainable soy standards. She also elaborates on the requirements for a deforestation/conversion free soy value chain.

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Legal deforestation and conversion

IUCN NL’s analysis of existing laws on forest protection in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay showed that in these three countries alone, 110 million hectares can be deforested according to present laws. If we include for example savanna grasslands, an even much larger area of nature can be legally converted to agricultural land.

It is therefore important to support the adoption of deforestation and conversion-free responsible soy production that goes beyond legal compliance and stimulates the protecting of forests and other valuable ecosystems.

Current state of sustainable soy sourcing in Europe

Yet, the European Soy Monitor, recently released by IUCN NL and IDH, reveals that three quarters of 40 million tons of soybean equivalents used in Europe is not controlled for illegal deforestation, according to the basic requirements of the European feed industry, the so called FEFAC Soy Sourcing Guidelines. In 2017, only 22% of European soy use was verified according to these standards.

About 85% of European soy use is not verified deforestation free. Only somewhat more than 13% was certified by deforestation free standards, that is: standards that go beyond FEFAC compliance and require deforestation free production. In addition to not allowing illegal deforestation, these standards do not allow legal deforestation.

Benchmark of sustainable soy standards

During her keynote address, Van den Hombergh also presents the findings of a benchmark study that compares the standards recognized by the feed industry on criteria such as the deforestation free requirement and the way they protect biodiversity in other ways, but also on the required quality and quantity of control in the field.

RTRS, the standard of the Roundtable on Responsible Soy, stands out as a market leader of quality when combining the criteria on deforestation and biodiversity with the criteria on required control. The standard ISCC Plus scores best on biodiversity criteria alone, while Pro Terra and Donau Soy deliver physical deforestation free and non-GM soy, which is important to many costumers.

Recommendations to attain zero deforestation

The three studies clearly indicate that we have to speed up action to attain the ambitious targets of the New York Declaration on Forests to halve deforestation by 2020 and to end it by 2030. Retailers, traders, financiers and governments all have a role to play. Van den Hombergh therefore calls on these parties to set the bar on deforestation and conversion free responsible soy: in sourcing requirements, in investment and lending criteria, and in policies and regulations. 

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