Irresponsible soya by any other name

June 2011

Field of GM soya
Photo © Greenpeace / Alexandra Buxbaum
In 2005, the World Wildlife Fund proposed the creation of the “Roundtable on Responsible Soy” (RTRS).

No doubt formed with the best of intentions, the RTRS is a multi-stakeholder forum which labels soya products 'sustainable' if they fulfill its defined criteria on the protection of wild-life, responsible pesticide use, and workers' rights.

The prime motivation of the supporters of the RTRS is to promote the use of soya food products and soya-based biofuels. Its members include many multinational corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill (grain suppliers), Shell and BP, all of which have an alarming history of human rights and environmental violations. They also have a history of developing and promoting GM crops, and have managed to persuade the world that GM soya is 'responsible'.

Because GM soya is designed to be doused in Roundup, broad-spectrum herbicide, and because the emergence of Roundup-resistant weeds has meant that the amount of the chemical used steadily increases year-on-year, GM soya cannot ever be part of a scheme to 'protect wild-life', nor of 'responsible pesticide use'. Biotech soya has also had a huge role in the clearance of forests to make way for GM monocultures, and in the eviction of small-holders from their land: 'sustainable' and 'workers' rights' are not compatible with this level of environmental and social destruction.

The knock-on effects of GM soya include the bankrupting of small farmers in the face of large-scale monocultures, depriving farmers of access to the non-GM seed suitable to their needs, and dramatically increasing poverty in farming communities. There's no chance of sustainability in this scheme.

Sadly, it seems the RTRS is more of a green-washing PR exercise for GM soya than it is 'responsible'.


Just to make matters worse, the RTRS is being supported by a string of British supermarkets including ASDA, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and Sainsbury's.

However, as Joanna Blythman wrote “The only redeeming feature of the overbearing power of supermarkets is that they can use their muscle for the good”. It is up to their customers (you) to persuade the supermarkets that they're being duped into supporting a scheme which is 'responsible' in nothing except its name.

For supermarket contact details, check out GM Freeze for useful e-mail addresses and phone numbers

  • Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji, UK Supermarkets to Label GM Soybean 'Sustainable', Institute of Science in Society Report 31.05.11
  • Joanna Blythman, Second Opinion: we can't allow GM chicken feed, The Grocer, 21.05.11

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