Friday, April 9, 2010

RTRS suffers setbacks, soy industry steps up lobbying



Round Table on Responsible soy suffers setbacks,
Soy Bean Trees soy industry steps up lobbying
8 April, 2010

The Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), a much criticised initiative for the certification of soy as `responsible', has stepped up its lobbying to be included under the EU's Renewable Energy Directive to certify `sustainable agrofuels'. This would give RTRS-approved soy, much of which would be produced in unsustainable and damaging monoculture farming, the EU's seal of approval in the context of the EU 10% agrofuels target....

To read more, please go to www.corporateeurope.org/agribusiness/blog/nina/2010/04/08/setbacks-round-table-responsible-soy


Round Table on Responsible Soy suffers setbacks, soy industry steps up lobbying

8 April, 2010 - 18:50

RoundTable on Responsible Soy suffers setbacks, soy industry steps up lobbying

The RoundTable on Responsible Soy (RTRS), a much criticised initiative for thecertification of soy as ‘responsible’, has stepped up its lobbying to beincluded under the EU's Renewable Energy Directive to certify ‘sustainableagrofuels’. This would give RTRS-approved soy, much of which would be producedin unsustainable and damaging monoculture farming, the EU's seal of approval inthe context of the EU 10% agrofuels target. But the RTRS' lobby efforts are nowfacing setbacks as an important Brazilian player has left the RTRS and theDutch government seems to be having seconds thoughts about ‘responsible’ soy.The RTRS was so far financed principally by the Dutch government.

The RTRSlost one of its key members this week when the Brazilian Association ofVegetable Oil Industries ABIOVE announced they would leave. ABIOVE hasdisappeared from the RTRS membership list, but according to TraceConsult,“ABIOVE will not go public with this information as they do not intend todiscredit the RTRS.”[1] Another important RTRS member, APROSOJA, representinglarge Brazilian soy producers, already left last year because of the‘deforestation clause’ included in the round table's basic set of Principlesand Criteria. As TraceConsult points out, “With APROSOJA defecting already lastyear and ABIOVE tip-toeing out now, the world’s second largest soy producingcountry, Brazil, is hardly represented in the RTRS any longer.” It is nocoincidence that ABIOVE, also this week, has announced its own certification:SOJA PLUS. The objectives of SOJA PLUS are clear: an even cheaper and simplercertification system to repair the damaged image of Brazilian soy producers.

Apartfrom losing Brazilian members, the RTRS suffered another blow last week, whenthe Dutch government decided to reject a 68 million euro funding proposal on‘sustainable trade’ initiatives, which included the RTRS. The fundingapplication came from the two Dutch NGOs that drive the RTRS in Europe, WWF andSolidaridad. [2]

Meanwhile,the RTRS has formed a working group to promote that the RTRS will be accredited by the European Commissionunder the Renewable Energy Directive as a qualified certification scheme tocertify ‘sustainable’ agrofuels. This, however, would require a major overhaulof the RTRS deforestation clause, which as it is now does not come close tomeet the EU criteria on this matter. [3]

Another RTRS member, Patagonia Bioenergia, has hired one of Brussels’ mostcontroversial PR agencies, Burson Marsteller, to set up meetings with Membersof European Parliament. Laetitia Bourgeix of Burson Marsteller wrote to severalMEPs on behalf of Federico Pochat, CEO at Patagonia Bioenergia S.A andExecutive Director of CARBIO (Argentinean Chamber of Biofuels) to arrangemeetings in mid-February. Bourgeix mentioned that Mr Pochat would like todiscuss “... aspects of the Renewable Directive like default and actual values,sustainability criteria and trade issues”.[4] “As a key player in theArgentinean biofuels industry and member of the Round Table of Responsible Soy(RTRS), he would like to explain that Argentinean biodiesel is one of theworld’s most competitive and sustainable biofuels, adhering to the highestinternational environmental standards”, the Burson Marsteller lobbyist wrote.

Thishappens in a context of the EU agrofuels debate entering a new stage ofintensity, due to the upcoming Commission report on Indirect Land Use Change(ILUC). The report will assess how the broader land use impacts of agrofuelsproduction influence the greenhouse gas balance of agrofuels.

BursonMarsteller is not the only consultancy that has been hired by the agrofuelsindustry to influence this debate: Edelman Public Affairs now works for the Malaysianpalm oil giant Sime Darby Group, including arranging meetings with Members ofEuropean Parliament. Edelman's NoƩmie Papp wrote: "Sime Darby is closely followinga number of EU policy initiatives in the fields of Environment, Agriculture andEnergy linked to palm oil, sustainability, biofuels and biomass issues. SimeDarby is very committed to making a substantive contribution to these policydebates and believes that a sustained dialogue is key to achieving effectiveoutcomes." [5]

And thenthere's Gplus, which still works for the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).Weber Shandwick, moreover, is conducting a survey on behalf of Brazil’s sugarbarons united in UNICA, in order to “... help UNICA better understand theperceptions and expectations of key stakeholders, and will subsequently informUNICA’s communications strategy and input to policy debates in Europe.” UNICA’slobby is also assisted by Cabinet DN, a Brussels-based consultancy full offormer MEPs and EP staffers. Cabinet DN, which is not registered in the EU'slobbying transparency register, prominently highlights its policy of “clientconfidentiality” on its website.[6]

[1]www.traceconsult.ch

[2] http://www.viceversaonline.nl/2010/04/afvaller-solidaridad-boos-waar-is-...

[3]personal communication with DG TREN

[4] emailcommunication from Burson Marsteller to MEPs, January 2010

[5] emailcommunication from Edelman to MEPs, April 2010

[6] http://blog.brusselssunshine.eu/2010/03/cashing-in-on-secrecy.html

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