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For Immediate Release
Thursday 17 April 2008  (International Day of Peasant’s Struggle)

Asunción, Paraguay–One week before the third meeting of the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) in Buenos Aires, Argentina [1], the Global Forest Coalition, a worldwide coalition of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Indigenous Peoples Organizations [2], have published an open call to NGOs to withdraw themselves from the RTRS process [3]. The Coalition states that by supporting the roundtable, NGOs are legitimizing the expansion of large-scale soy monocultures that lead to massive deforestation, pesticide contamination, rural depopulation, malnutrition and violent land conflicts. It calls upon NGOs to instead address the over-consumption of products like meat and transport fuels in continents like Europe, which is the main destination of South American soy.

It is not coherent to increase export levies to halt the ‘soyfication’ of our country while there is continued support for the production of agrofuels, taking into account that there are 9.000.000 hectares of additional soy production needed to supply the agrodiesel plants that are currently projected,” points out Elba Stancich of the NGO Taller Ecologista in Argentina. “The continued support for the current agricultural model forms the main obstacle to another type of agriculture, as it obliges small and medium-size farmers to adopt non-sustainable production methods based on competition and industrialization. Instead, we need family farms that foster the sustainable use of our common wealth for the production of quality food for local consumption.”
“Soy monoculture covers 21 million hectares in Brazil, the second largest world producer and exporter of soybean, soybean oil and soybean meal, and the largest exporter of value added soy as poultry, pork and beef.  Soy also accounts for 80% of the raw material used to produce biodiesel in Brazil to date, ” said Camila Moreno from Terra Di Direitos in Brazil. She adds:  “Soy is indisputably recognized as the main driving force of deforestation over the Amazon and Cerrado and a root cause of the escalating rural violence and human rights violations associated to land issues in our country. Soy expansion and soy greed has allowed Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) illegally into the country, smuggling seeds from Argentina. That gives precedent to the legalization of other GMOs leading to peasant and family farm indebtedness in southern Brazil.”
The standards for “responsible” soy as currently proposed do not even exclude genetically modified soy, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of consumers in Europe rejects genetically modified crops.

Elias Diaz Pena of Sobrevivencia in Paraguay adds: “We entirely reject the irresponsible insistence on such an oxymoron as sustainable soy. Soy is the cement of an all western way of life and diet, and as we see all around, there is no criteria but profit to its expansion. Even more scandalous than soy’s devastating effects over biodiversity and traditional food cultures is the hypocrisy of northern consumers and their governments that refuse to accept the bare truth.”
According to Dr. Miguel Lovera, the chairperson of the Global Forest Coalition, “The support of civil society organisations to this Roundtable is legitimizing a corporate-dominated process that attempts to give a green veneer to further soy expansion in South America and other regions instead of promoting more sustainable consumption patterns that would take away the need for further expansion.”  Lovera, a Paraguayan agronomist, adds: “Certification processes are not able to address the indirect impacts of soy production, such as deforestation caused by cattle ranching and other agricultural activities that are displaced by soy monocultures. We need a dramatic reduction of soy monocultures, land reform and a country-wide deforestation ban here, as well as a drastic reduction in the consumption of meat, diary and agrodiesel in the countries addicted to soy.”
For more information, please contact:
Orin Langelle, Global Forest Coalition media coordinator:  +1-802-482-2689/+1-578-6980 (English)
Dr. Miguel Lovera, chairperson, Global Forest Coalition: +595-21-663654/ + 595-971-201957 (English, Spanish, French and Dutch)
Pablo Valenzuela, media coordinator, Sobrevivencia, +595-21-480182
Elias Diaz Pena, director environmental program, Sobrevivencia: +595-21-480182 (English and Spanish)
Elba Stancich, Coordinacion General, Taller Ecologista – Argentina: Telefax +54-341-4261475 (Spanish)

[1] The third meeting of the Roundtable on Responsible Soy will take place on 23 and 24 April in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While the process has been rejected by the overwhelming majority of civil society organizations in the soy producer countries, some 12 NGOs, including 4 international conservation organizations, are still member of the RTRS. The roundtable also has 48 corporate members, including a growing number of agrofuel producers like Shell and BP.
[2] See: <https://www.globalforestcoalition.org>
[3] See: “Open Call to civil society organizations to withdraw from the Roundtable on Responsible Soy” which follows NOTES FOR EDITORS.
[4] See also <https://www.lasojamata.org> for more information on the impacts of soy monocultures and a joint statement against the RTRS by over 130 organizations.

Open Call to civil society organizations to withdraw from the Roundtable on Responsible Soy

The Global Forest Coalition, a worldwide coalition of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations (www.globalforestcoalition.org) reiterates its strong opposition to the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS), a corporate-dominated process to give a veneer of sustainability to the continued expansion of soy production in America and other regions, and specifically calls upon the current NGO and other civil society organization members of RTRS to withdraw their support to this process.

As any extensive crop, soy production is associated with a large range of socioeconomic and environmental problems. Generally, small soy producers can not compete with large soy producers in a globalized market, leading to further land concentration, rural unemployment, depopulation, malnutrition and a sharp increase in violent conflicts between small farmers and large agro-industrial producers. Many of these conflicts are accompanied by serious human rights violations. The recent crisis in Argentina has proven once more that soy production leads to accumulation of wealth in the hands of a small elite that is not willing to share its profits with the rest of society. The current proposals for RTRS criteria almost completely ignore these direct and indirect social impacts of soy expansion.

The RTRS criteria as they currently stand promote genetically modified soy as “responsible soy”, even though GM soy is rejected by millions of consumers and NGOs all over the world due to its environmental and social impacts, and the risks to human health posed by its production and consumption. These criteria do not reject the use of large amounts of agrochemicals in soy production. Considering the sheer size of territory currently used for soy production, even legally permitted use of agrochemicals leads to massive intoxication of the country-side in the producing countries, additionally causing depletion of freshwater resources of Indigenous Peoples and rural communities, massive biodiversity loss, and numerous health problems amongst the rural population, often with fatal consequences.

Despite recent deforestation moratoria in countries like Paraguay and Argentina, soy production continues to be responsible for massive deforestation in the areas that are not yet protected by law, especially in Brazil. Soy production continues to be associated with massive illegal forest conversion. By replacing cattle ranching and small-scale traditional farming, soy production is also indirectly responsible for the further expansion of the agricultural frontier into intact, biodiversity-rich areas, like the Gran Chaco, where Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation are severely threatened by the continued expansion of the large scale agricultural frontier.

The overwhelming majority of soy produced in Latin America is exported as feedstock for fodder in intensive livestock production in Europe, an industry that is severely criticized by European NGOs due to its impacts on the environment and animal welfare. The increased use of soy for agrodiesel aggravates the existing problems, including, paradoxically,  climate change: if all direct and indirect emissions are taken into account, agrodiesel produced from soy has a negative carbon balance compared to most conventional transport fuels. By replacing traditional food-crops, soy production undermines food sovereignty and food security in vast regions of Latin America.

The Roundtable on Responsible Soy has virtually ignored these social and environmental impacts, which are inherent to large-scale soy production. Certification initiatives are incapable to address the indirect environmental and social impacts of large scale soy production.

We share the concern of other organizations about the continued support for this roundtable by NGOs that represent the vested interests of Northern consumers in the luxury products most soy is destined for: cheap meat and agrodiesel for individual car transport.

We stress the fact that the RTRS has been created to offer “moral tranquility” to Northern consumers, so that they maintain their soy consumption rhythm, and at no time was it intended to serve the interests of the peoples of Southern countries.

We call upon the NGOs supporting this process to respect the views of the overwhelming majority of the environmental and social NGOs, farmer’s movements and Indigenous Peoples in the producer countries, which have rejected the RTRS on multiple occasions.

For this reason, we calll upon civil society organizations currently involved in the process, to disengage from the RTRS in solidarity with the victims of soy expansion and for the restoration of a sounder environment, instead of greenwashing a product that is inherently unsustainable when produced at large scales. We call upon these NGOs to convince their constituencies to adopt more sustainable lifestyles by consuming less meat and using more sustainable forms of transport, thus avoiding the need for large amounts of soy for fodder and agrofuel.