Food buyers are being called on to stipulate in their supplier contracts that soy used to feed chickens and livestock is sourced responsibly.
The Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), which promotes responsible production, processing and trading of soy around the world, is aiming to ensure a third of the soy imported into Europe (10 million tonnes) is responsibly sourced by 2017-18.
This compares with the 1.3 million tonnes of responsibly sourced soy imported in 2014, which was up almost 50 per cent on the 2013 figure. Globally around 270 million tonnes of soy is produced annually.
The RTRS, which is made up of industry, producers and NGOs, said soy is a key ingredient in animal feed, due to its high protein content, with 70 per cent of global production used to rear livestock. A third of chicken feed is typically soy. Oil and milk is also produced from the bean.
Lieven Callewaert, European representative for the RTRS, said: “Soy is the most important agricultural commodity traded in the world today.
“The most important way companies can meet commitments to 'no bad things in the supply chain' is to put it into purchasing specifications.
“If a retailer is speaking to their suppliers they can specify: ‘We want animals reared on responsibly sourced soy’. For buyers that’s a really important message.”
Callewaert said last year soy cost around $400 per tonne and using responsibly sourced soy added around 2–3 per cent to the cost, but this was offset by improvements to brand image.
Responsibly sourced soy means it has been grown with no deforestation, under legal compliance and according to International Labour Organization standards.
Farmers in producer countries also receive education and training, resulting in better crop yields and lower pesticide use. Brazil is the biggest producer of soy globally.
The 10 million tonne target is supported by the Retailers' Soy Group, made up of 10 European retailers including Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. The group also has a seat on the board of RTRS.