First audit reports show failure of "responsible" soya
The Roundtable on Responsible Soya (RTRS) Annual Conference will be held at the Park Inn Heathrow Hotel on 23 and 24 May 2012.
The RTRS has today been described by campaigners in Europe as a certifying smoke screen that should be replaced by strong national regulation and fearless enforcement to protect communities, forests and the environment from the relentless march of soya plantations in South America.
The RTRS is a voluntary certification scheme established in May 2004 and formally launched in 2006 as the RTRS Association. Members include food and agribusiness giants like Cargill and Monsanto, and supermarkets like Sainsbury's, but also some NGOs, including WWF.
The first ten audit reports have now been published online. GM Freeze, Friends of the Earth and Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO Publishing)  have now scrutinised these reports, which confirm the RTRS has not brought a single benefit for small farmers in the area. Some small charitable gestures are taken as evidence of "good community relations", while the reports show that Roundup and other pesticide spraying occurs as close as 30 metres from people's homes.
Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:
"RTRS standards mean that there is no pressure for the methods of soya production to improve to be certified as complying with local laws is all that is needed. This means farmers can go on growing GM Roundup Ready soya in a manner that is highly damaging to the soil, environment and local communities and still be called `responsible'. European supermarkets cannot continue to rely on RTRS soya for animal feed supporting unsustainable forms of intensive livestock and poultry production for poultry. This simply cannot be described as matching the definition of responsible: `Based on or characterised by good judgement or sound thinking.'"
The flaws and failings of the RTRS certification scheme include:
Weak forest protection measures only dating back to 2009.
- Certification of unsustainable GM Roundup Ready soya monocultures dependent on glyphosate for weed control, which is causing an escalation of pesticide use to cope with weed resistance to glyphosate.
- Aerial application of glyphosate and other pesticides causing health problems for people living near soya plantations.
- Poor channels of communication with local farmers and communities and other problems with intensive soya production.
- Auditing processes which rubber stamp existing mediocre practice.
- Unsatisfactory "mass balance" traceability, which does not provide surety for European consumers about the methods of production used.
UK companies that are members of the RTRS include ASDA, Greenergy, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, The Co-Operative Group, Unilever and Waitrose.
1. GM Freeze, Friends of the Earth and Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO Publishing), 22 May 2012. Roundtable on Responsible Soya - The certifying smoke screen