GE soya

Scientific Paper - April 2010

With the rising emphasis on biofuels as a potential solution to climate change, this paper asks whether certification schemes, developed to promote sustainable feedstock production, are able to deliver genuine sustainability benefits. The Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) is a certification scheme that aims to promote responsible soy production through the development of principles and criteria. However, can and does this initiative address the negative impacts associated with the intensive production of soy? Taking the example of soy biodiesel produced in Argentina, this paper asks whether the social and environmental impacts of soybean production can be mitigated by the RTRS. It concludes that at present certification schemes are unlikely to be able to address either the institutional challenges associated with their implementation or the detrimental impacts of the additional demand generated by biofuels.

Report - December 2009

Few would deny that agriculture is especially severely affected by climate change and that the right practices contribute to mitigate it, yet expectations of the new climate agreement diverge sharply, as well as notions on what are good and what are bad agricultural practices and whether soil carbon sequestration should be part of carbon trading.

Report - April 2005

How producing RR soya is destroying the food security and sovereignty of Argentina

This case study explains why Argentina began to grow genetically engineered RR soya and why its cultivation has spread so rapidly to more than 14 million hectares (ha) in 2003-4. It looks at the role that Argentina adopted in the 19th Century as an exporter of raw materials and a target for foreign investment. Other factors touched on include the massive accumulation of debt, economic collapse, financial speculation, capital flight and structural adjustment imposed by the Menem government (1989-99) according to instructions from international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Briefing - October 2003

The Cost of Complying with US Pressure

Soya is not bringing wealth to Argentina.
"We are being occupied by the seed multinationals that have patented life and are forcing us to pay tribute to them," says Jorge Eduardo Rulli, one of Argentina’s leading agronomists. "The more we produce the poorer we become."


From Asian food to European animal feed

Soya is an ancient crop from Asia that has been used for centuries for human nutrition. Now GE soya, GE maize, GE oilseed rape/canola and Bt cotton are the major GE (or GM) crops commercialised on a large scale, with GE soya representing the largest proportion of the total plantings of soya globally. The huge increase over the last few years in soy production, mainly in the Americas, is driven by the demand for animal feed and represents a massive increase in industrial intensification of monoculture plantations.
Over the years, the drive for ever-increasing productivity has led to the breeding of animals requiring increasing amounts of proteins in their diet. When 'Mad Cow' disease (BSE) forced an end to the practice of feeding animal remains to animals, the livestock industry turned to soya as a replacement protein source for livestock. At around the same time, Monsanto was planning how to cope with the end of its patent on glyphosate - the active ingredient in its best-selling herbicide RoundUp. The development of GE crops that tolerate the application of RoundUp meant that Monsanto could sell the GE seeds and the herbicide as a package.
Since 1997, RoundUp Ready (RR) soya has expanded in the US and Argentina, securing a new business model for Monsanto and providing the intensive lifestock industry with proteins. Most of the GE soya is exported as animal feed to Europe and increasingly to China.
The spread of RR soya monocultures in Argentina has been rapid and decisive. They affect the soils, water, biodiversity, forests and climate. hey also impact the food systems and health of rural communities and small towns, as the reports A case study on the impact of GE soya shows.

GE soy fields as carbon sinks?

The story of GE soya encapsulates much of what is wrong with industrial food & feed systems, but now the model of no-till GE agriculture for soya is being promoted for mitigating climate change at climate talks. The argument is that less CO2 is released from the soil if it is not tilled. Instead weeds are controlled with herbicides. Thus the soil under GE soya becomes a carbon sink and can be rewarded with carbon credits. However, there are many debates about whether no-till really sequestrates more carbon than other agricultural methods.
A dedicated chapter in the report Agriculture and climate change: Real Problems, False Solutions discusses why chemical no-till agriculture is no solution.

January 2011