Roundtable signs off responsible soy standards

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Responsible soy Greenhouse gas

New voluntary standards for the responsible production of soy have been agreed by the industry roundtable, and the first certified material from South America is expected to be in the market in 2011.

The Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) adopted the voluntary sustainability standards yesterday (10 June) following field testing of a pilot version in 2009 and 2010 by producer-members of the RTRS in 2009 and 2010. The results of the field trials fed into the final version.

According to the WWF, the most important parts of the standards (available in full here​) concern environmental protection. These include prohibitions on converting forests and savannahs to soy plantations, eliminating harmful pesticides, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Known as Principals and Criteria, the standards require producers to:

  • Comply with the law and adopt good business practices;
  • Maintain good working conditions, such as paying workers the prevailing wage;
  • Dialogue with surrounding communities, such as equitably resolving land disputes;
  • Not expand into native forests such as the Amazon and other habitats with high value such as certain areas of the Cerrado and Chaco;
  • Engage in good agricultural practices, such as reducing soil erosion, water use and pollution, and the safe handling and minimizing the use of agrochemicals.

In addition, a voluntary annex covers standards for soy labelled as GMO-free.

Industry action needed

The standards have been welcomed by WWF, one of the NGO members of the RTRS (which has around 140 members altogether, including soy forms, farmers, feed mill operators, retailers and financial institutions).

Cassio Moreira, coordinator of WWF Brazil’s Agriculture and Environment Program and a board member of the RTRS, said the finalised standards are a step in the right direction, but stakeholders now need to put them into action.

“The results of the field tests show that the standards are practical and can be implemented. Now producers need to start the certification process and buyers need to demand RTRS certified soy as soon as possible, so that the market starts moving and the share of soy under responsible cultivation expands.”

The RTRS still has some work to do to enable this, however. Moreira continued: “Now that the production standards have been finalized, the RTRS must finalize its certification system to verify compliance with the standards and establish methods to trace the soy.”

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