Against 'Responsible' Soy
Against 'Responsible' GM soy: reply to Solidaridad, WWF
The Round Table on Responsible Soy has been strongly criticised by many social and campesino movements from soy producing countries. Nevertheless, Dutch NGOs Solidaridad and WWF now go a step further by organising the 'GM soy debate - Common sense on GM soy' in order to make GM soy certifyable as 'responsible'. This shows how perverted the RTRS process really is.
By Nina Holland, LaSojaMata/Corporate Europe Observatory
In the IKON radio program ‘De Andere Wereld’ of November 1st, Flip Vonk of ASEED called the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) a ‘naïve and dangerous’ initiative. We would like to respond to Solidaridad’s comment on this, which is published on www.solidaridad.nl.
The first sentence on the Round Table website (www.responsiblesoy.org) reads as follows:
“The soy industry is fundamental for economical growth and job creation in producer countries, but it has imposed the expansion of agricultural frontiers at a high social and environmental cost.”
This starting point clearly shows what the problem is with the RTRS and what it aims to do. The Round Table’s objective is to create a voluntary certification system for ‘responsible’ soy, based on a set of criteria developed by the industry and a number of NGO’s.
The RTRS does not try to counter the soy expansion, therefore the ‘high social and environmental costs’ can continue to increase – to the alleged benefit of ‘economical growth’ and ‘job creation’. Is it ‘responsible’ to accept these costs? Economical growth and jobs – for whom, where and how many? While the countryside is turned into a depopulated soy desert, a few jobs are created in the banking and pesticide industry. Economical growth is not at all distributed evenly among society; on the contrary.
These considerations are highly political questions. The Round Table supporters are trying very hard to de-politicise these issues. This perfectly fits the agenda of the Dutch government that support the RTRS financially, under the pretext of sustainability. An example of this argument, as stated by Jan Maarten Dros of Solidaridad in the IKON program, is that through the Round Table, the European consumer ‘..regains a bit of transparency that we lost with globalisation’ . This European consumer should thus be happy to be made responsible for decades of Dutch and EU policy, driven by industry’s private interests, that has shaped that ‘globalisation’ and has promoted massive soy imports and factory farming. That same consumer is not being told that it might be better to eat less or no meat, because RTRS participant VION (Dutch mega pig slaughter company) would not be too pleased with that message.
And how does that ‘bit of transparency’ bring any benefit to the 90.000 campesinos and indigenas in Paraguay who yearly leave their land to try find an existence in the city slums, on garbage dumps or in foreign countries? These people don’t fit in the large scale agro-export soy model that inundates the country, and they never will. They are the collateral damage of the agro-export model. This model, based on the use of GM soy and glyphosate (Roundup), cannot co-exist with small scale campesino-agriculture. This is currently resulting in severe conflicts, like now in the rural areas of Paraguay, principally conflicts over access to land and over the use of the herbicide Roundup in soy cultivation, which affects all other crops around.
With the application of RTRS criteria, we will neither get back the forests that have already disappeared, and that still will disappear, in order to make way for soy. The problem with the certification of ‘responsible soy’ is that the industry is given the opportunity to show good will, while soy expansion can continue undisturbed, ‘responsible’ or not.
This is one of the main reasons why against each of the three Round Table conferences held so far, declarations have been published and protests were organised by a large part of the Brazilian, Argentinean and Paraguayan social movements and NGO’s concerned – also supported by organisations elsewhere in the world. The last conference, in April 2008 in Buenos Aires, received counter-declarations from both Friends of the Earth and the Global Forest Coalition (see www.lasojamata.org).
The Paraguayan, Argentinian and Brazilian campesino movements in general do not recognise the Round Table as a legitimate forum for them to achieve anything. RTRS membership is therefore dominated by soy producers and agribusiness transnationals including Cargill, ADM, Bunge and Unilever. This is reflected in the meetings of the RTRS. Industry takes a hard position against proposals to favour small producers by applying certain criteria less rigidly. According to the minutes of one of the conferences, an industry participant even claims that“..small farmers should not be allowed to ruin the planet” (!).
BP, Shell, Greenergy, Biopetrol Trading and Neste Oil have also joined the RTRS, because of the expected booming demand for ‘bio’diesel. This makes the Round Table even more counterproductive and therefore dangerous, as it actively contributes to the legitimation of the use of soy oil as ‘bio’diesel; an extra market, adding extra value to soy as a product.
Our report ‘The Round Table on IR-responsible Soy’ (see www.lasojamata.org), which was published for the occasion of the 3rd Round Table conference in Buenos Aires, shows how European corporations that are a member of the Round Table, at the same time push their other, destructive agendas, supported by EU politicians. Yet these corporations keep pointing at their RTRS membership, when confronted with questions about the (un)sustainability of the soy sector – a good example of greenwashing.
READ THE REST AT http://lasojamata.org/es/node/289