Soy: trade in deforestation
The rising demand for soy is having negative consequences for people and the environment in South America. Both ENDS reminds Dutch actors in the soy industry of their responsibilities and is working with partners on fair and sustainable alternatives.
Global meat consumption is increasing and with it the demand for soy, a protein-rich crop primarily used as cattle feed. This is having a disastrous impact on people, the environment and the climate. Forests are being cleared and the natural environment destroyed on a large scale, especially in South America, to free up land for soy cultivation. The greenhouse gases this releases are contributing to climate change.
Soy cultivation also has harmful effects on local, often indigenous populations. They are losing the land and forest they need to survive. Excessive use of herbicides is leading to severe water and air pollution and is creating serious health risks, especially for women and children.
Soy coalition: spotlight on the Netherlands' role in soy trade
The consequences of large-scale soy production, and the role of the Netherlands within it, were already gradually becoming clear in the 1980s, in the Netherlands and elsewhere. To combat the negative consequences of soy production, Both ENDS worked together with 15 other organisations in the Dutch Soy Coalition from 2003 to 2018.
Through the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands is an important transit country for soy. More than 8 million tons of soya arrived in the country in 2013, of which more than 7 million tons was re-exported. Most of the soy that remains in the Netherlands is used as cattle feed (more figures are available in the Soy Coalition's latest Soy Barometer 2014).
Sustainable soy in the Netherlands
One of the Soy Coalition's priority themes was promoting sustainable soy cultivation, e.g. certified by the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS). In 2011, the Dutch business community pledged to work towards 100% sustainable soy import by 2015. Although that led to a rise in sustainable soy from 7% in 2011 to 34% in 2015, it fell far short of the target. Nevertheless, the topic of sustainable soy has moved higher up the agenda.
Since 2018, Both ENDS has been strongly advocating an ambitious EU plan of action to combat deforestation caused by EU member states, e.g. by the import of soy and palm oil. In addition, we are working to achieve implementation of the Amsterdam Declarations, in which the Netherlands and 6 other European countries express their ambition towards deforestation-free commodities.
Infrastructure for soy: the soy corridor and a shipping canal
The infrastructure required to transport all that soy and other natural resources to markets, especially in Europe, also causes great damage. New roads through the Cerrado and the Amazon, not only for soy plantations but also for logging, mining and other economic activities, accelerate the process of deforestation. Here, too, the Netherlands plays a major role. It is involved, for example, in the "Corredor Norte" or soy corridor, a large infrastructural project in the north of Brazil intended to carry soy and other natural resources more quickly from the hinterland (the Amazon) to the ports. Both ENDS and our partners call on the Dutch government to put protecting the Amazon before national trade interests.
To the south of the Amazon, the Pantanal wetlands are also under threat from soy cultivation. Rivers are being converted to create a shipping canal, the Hidrovía Paraná-Paraguay, to transport soy more quickly and cheaply. The project is causing great damage to the ecosystem and to the living environment of people who depend on this for their survival. Both ENDS has been working with local partners and networks in the Pantanal for several decades to remove these plans from the table and promote sustainable alternatives.
For more information
Read more about this subject
From 2011 to 2015, Both ENDS took part in the Ecosystem Alliance to improve the livelihoods of the poor and create an inclusive economy, through participatory and responsible management of ecosystems.
News / 15 November 2018
On Wednesday, November 14, Dutch Newspaper De Volkskrant published a joint op-ed by Both ENDS, Hivos, Greenpeace Netherlands and Witness about the deforestation in the Amazon region which is still going on rapidly, having disastrous consequences for the indigenous people who live in the area, for biodiversity and for the climate. The Netherlands is one of the largest buyers of Brazilian agricultural products such as soy and beef, and should ensure that deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations do not occur in these production chains. Unfortunately, this is not at all the case yet.
News / 12 October 2018
After 15 years, the members of the Dutch Soy Coalition have decided to disband the coalition. A total of 16 civil society organisations have worked together for many years to put the negative impact of the production, transport, processing and consumption of soy on the agenda and to seek solutions together with other stakeholders.
News / 13 October 2016
The Netherlands has not reached the 100% target it set itself for the purchase of responsibly sourced soy, with only 34% of imports reaching the RTRS (Round Table on Sustainable Soy ) or an equivalent sustainability standard in 2015. The pork and poultry sectors are lagging behind with an uptake of less than 10% of responsibly sourced soy.
News / 2 November 2015
The Pantanal, in the heart of South America, at the border of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, is the world’s largest freshwater wetland with an extremely rich biodiversity. Tourism and fishing are the main sources of income for the local population. This enormous natural area is invaluable for the water management of a large part of the continent, stretching all the way down to the Argentinian La Plata area, some 1,500 kilometres away. The area faces many threats and Both ENDS therefore already started actively supporting local organisations striving to protect the Pantanal in 1994.
News / 11 November 2014
On Wednesday November 5th, Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure and Environment, Mansveld, and Minister for Agriculture, Dijksma, issued a letter to the Dutch House of Representatives. This letter was their reaction to the ‘Advice Sustainability Food Sector’, which was drafted at the request of the Cabinet by the Commission Sustainability Issues Biomass – or Commission Corbey in short. Paul Wolvekamp of Both ENDS is member of this commission and gave his opinion on the letter.
News / 30 October 2014
The Netherlands does not reach target for responsible soy
The Dutch Soy Coalition (consisting of eight development and environmental organisations*) finds that in 2013 only a quarter of the 2.4 million tons of soy used in the Netherlands is responsibly produced. The social or environmental impacts of the production of the other three quarters of Dutch soy imports are not at all clear or accounted for. The target set by the Netherlands is to purchase 100 percent responsible soy by 2015. This will be almost impossible to achieve at this point.
News / 23 October 2014
Many of our food products contain palm oil and soy in one form or another. To meet the growing demand, they are being cultivated on an increasingly large scale. This has unfortunately been the cause of many problems. Deforestation, environmental pollution and ‘land-grabbing’ are rampant in South-East Asia and South America. Of course, these paractices should stop. But what are the most sustainable, ethical, and – above all – feasible ways to achieve this? And how do you get all parties to cooperate? To explore the answers to these questions, the Ecosystem Alliance (Both ENDS, IUCN NL and Wetlands International) is organising a conference on October 30.
News / 4 October 2013
Recently Both ENDS and agricultural and horticultural cooperative Agrifirm organised a field visit for members of the Dutch Soy Coalition. The group visited two farmers in the province of Drenthe who have been participating in the first practice test to grow Soy in Netherlands. One of them is an organic poultry farmer and the other a conventional dairy farmer. Both use soy in animal feed on the farm. Tamara Mohr of Both ENDS was there and explains about this initiative.
News / 5 December 2012
Today, the Soy Barometer 2012 will be released. The Soy Barometer gives insight on the amount of soy imported, processed and consumed by the Dutch, and which part of it can be called 'responsibly produced'. In the Soy Barometer 2012, data is compared with the Soy Barometer 2009.