The state of the soy industry; in need of industry-wide changes

With the release of the European Soy Monitor, IDH and IUCN NL provide an overview of the soy industry, the amount of sustainable imports and propose paths to increase this. Soy is everywhere in today’s globalized economy. You can find it in tofu and vegetarian products, processed snack foods, and embedded in products across the dairy, meat, poultry, and aquaculture industries.

The impact of our collective soy consumption is enormous. Looking at the footprint, all soy used for European consumption is grown on more than 19 million football fields. Soy production is associated with a range of environmental and social issues in producing countries. Deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems in South America has been driven by the rapidly growing landmass dedicated to soy cultivation.

Sustainable production offers a path to empowerment for producers, value and sustainability for supply chain actors, and meets consumer demand for sustainable products. Countering the externalities of soy production is possible through the development of sustainable supple chains, but in 2017 only 22% (7.6 million tons) of the total soy use in Europe was compliant with the FEFAC Soy Sourcing Guidelines (a baseline for responsible soy), and only 13% of European soy imports (4.3 million tons) was deforestation-free.

Certification schemes and the FEFAC Soy Sourcing Guidelines have made it easier for companies to demand sustainable soy, but adoption has remained low over the past years despite strong commitments from the industry and government actors. Production of sustainable soy currently exceeds demand.

Special attention in the data report is given to the seven signatory countries of the Amsterdam Declarations who committed to preserving primary forests and high conservation value areas. These countries used 19.7 million tonnes of soy in 2017. Of this total, 33% was FEFAC compliant and 17% was covered by deforestation-free standards. The countries vary greatly in their adoption of responsible soy, from Norway at 80% to Italy at 3% responsible.

The monitor makes it clear that industry-wide changes are still needed to reach 100% responsible soy.

Click here to read the report