Cert ID says sustainable soy standards report 'inaccurate and biased'

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Soybean Sustainability

Cert ID says sustainable soy standards report 'inaccurate and biased'
CERT ID, the company behind ProTerra – a standard for non-GM soy and other foods – claims a recent report from the Dutch consultancy CREM comparing soy sustainability standards misrepresents it and is biased towards the Cargill-backed RTRS soy standard.

The report, In Search of Responsible Soy​, was published in July and commissioned by the Dutch Soy Coalition.

It looks at how a range of standards including ProTerra and the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) perform on 'hot button' issues in soy production including the use of genetically modified (GM) soy, conversion of forest and wild lands, and displacement of people for soy expansion.

Soy certifying standards such as the more established ProTerra and the relative newcomer RTRS are not used on finished food products, but can be used by manufacturers to support non-GM and sustainability claims should retailers ask for evidence.

Serious inaccuracies’

According to Cert ID, the CREM report “contains serious inaccuracies”​ that are damaging to the certifying body and, in a letter to the Netherlands-based consultancy, it calls for a speedy revision of the publication in relation to the description of the ProTerra standard.

Additionally, John Fagan, chairman and chief scientific officer at Cert ID, told this publication the CREM report: “is essentially trying to downgrade the ProTerra standard to promote the RTRS version.”

Claire Robinson, an activist with GM watch has rowed in behind CERT ID, in terms of its assessment of the CREM report. “There is a big conflict of interest in the report,”​ said Robinson. “It came out with a ringing endorsement of RTRS’s sustainability and contains inaccuracies regarding ProTerra (RTRS’s main rival and the current market leader) which makes ProTerra look much less strong on sustainability than it is.”

Robinson points out that the Dutch Soy Coalition (DSC), which commissioned the report, is supported by RTRS members WWF and Solidaridad.

Conflict of interest denied

CREM said it has taken down the link to the soy report on its website pending a revised version.

But it denies any conflict of interest in relation to the publication. Wijnand Broer, CREM deputy director, told FoodNavigator.com today that the consultancy “has no stake in the soy debate whatsoever.” ​ And that: “There [was] certainly no intentional bias in favour of RTRS.”

He explained that CREM compared the soy standards using information that was publicly available including online as well as print sources.

Broer claims that as a result, for several standards (but not necessarily Pro Terra), the information available online or in print “did not always provide a clear insight into the criteria, the control system, or the multi-stakeholder approach.”

CREM also asked, continued Broer, experts in the field of responsible soy to check the results of the comparison based on their own knowledge to ensure accuracy.

Additionally, he points out,​as “most standards are not static models and a comparison of standards may still contain misinterpretations, the report leaves the opportunity open for people to respond to the data presented when the data are inaccurate. A comparison is only useful if it contains correct information.”

The standards

ProTerra bans the use of GM soy, while RTRS allows GM soy, though it provides a non-GM option.

The ProTerra Standard, developed by Cert ID, emerged from the Basel Criteria, a document developed cooperatively by the retailer COOP-Switzerland, the World Wildlife Fund, and other industry and public interest groups.

CERT ID maintains that since 2006, ProTerra has delivered up to 4.5 million tonnes per year, around 13 per cent of EU consumption – of traceable and verified socially responsible, environmentally sustainable, and non-GM soy.

The RTRS was initiated by the conservation organisation WWF and is backed by the major multinationals involved in GM soy production and trade, such as ADM, Bunge, Cargill, and Monsanto.

The first batch of 85,000 tonnes of soy produced according to the RTRS standard was sold to the Dutch food and feed industry in June this year.

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