Open green soybean pod on dry soy beans background (Photo: Shutterstock, ID: 1467898517)

Pros and cons of the new soy sourcing guidelines by the European feed sector

On February 3 2021, the European Feed manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC) launched the new version of its soy guidelines: the FEFAC Soy Sourcing Guidelines 2.0. The guidelines benchmark existing and newly developed soy certification schemes against a set of essential and desired sustainability criteria. Heleen van den Hombergh, Senior Advisor Agrocommodities at IUCN NL, shares her vision on this updated version: what are the welcome steps ahead, and what are the missed opportunities from a nature conservation perspective?

Header photo: Open green soybean pod on dry soy beans background © Shutterstock, ID: 1467898517

Welcome step ahead: requiring transparency of standards

A point IUCN NL is satisfied with, is that the guidelines point out that all documents relating to benchmarked standards should be public. Van den Hombergh: ‘This is a strong recommendation we made in 2019 when we published our soy standard benchmark study. Transparency is an important prerequisite, particularly for company owned standards. If standard documents are not publicly available, how can you verify what a company claims, and ring the bell if something goes wrong?’ 

Welcome step ahead: new criteria and a tool to check for conversion-free sourcing

Van den Hombergh: ‘The Guidelines mostly concern the legality of production, but this second version has adopted some new criteria as “essential” and offer at least a voluntary transparency tool to check if a standard requires conversion-free production. This is a tool for feed operators and chain partners to check if standards require that no natural ecosystems are converted for production of soy.’

Missed opportunity: conversion-free module remains voluntary

IUCN NL considers it a missed opportunity that “conversion free” remains only a voluntary add-on to the benchmark, waiting for further EU due digilence legislation and legislation on forest risk commodities. Van den Hombergh: ‘The urgency of biodiversity loss and climate impacts through soy sourcing requires further steps. However, it is good that FEFAC offers a hand on what conversion-free sourcing entails. Even if the EU does not step up legislation sufficiently, companies can move ahead on conversion-free responsible sourcing.’

Missed opportunity or to be further defined? Appropriate level of risk management

Van den Hombergh: ‘The Guidelines mention risk-proportionate evidence based on origin, but cannot offer tools to define such conversion risk. One cannot state that whole regions (e.g. Europe or the Amazon) have low or even negligible risks of conversion that would make evidence superfluous.  FEFAC seeks to further elaborate on the adequate level of evidence required for conversion free soy from different origins, based on their first benchmarking exercise this year. IUCN NL thinks strong, including on the ground, verification will mostly be needed for the claim “conversion free” to be made.’

IUCN NL’s vision on responsible soy

IUCN NL promotes best-in-class multi stakeholder standards for sustainable soy sourcing, flanked by landscape-wide zero-conversion and conservation measures, as well as strong government policy and legislation both in producing and consuming countries. Van den Hombergh: ‘Our motto is: set the bar in Europe and raise the floor of good governance in producing countries.’

IUCN NL also promotes a transition to a better balanced human diet with more plant- and less animal protein. ‘Only by combining those approaches of soy chain improvement, landscape wide conservation measures, and resource efficiency, we can make sufficient impact against ecosystem conversion for our protein consumption.’

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