In the last 15 years, production of soya has doubled, driven largely by the rising consumption of meat, as well as for use in food, biofuel and other products, reports WWF. Soya is grown predominantly for animal feed and vegetable oil, with the main use being in soya meal, as a source of protein for poultry, pig and cattle feeds.

China is the largest international importer, taking about 37% of the global production annually, followed by the EU at 28%. The U.S. is the world’s largest exporter, but soya agriculture is booming in South America, in particular in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. The UK imports more than 70% of its product directly from Argentina and Brazil.

Soya fieldJust like palm oil, the world’s demand for soya means land is being taken over by farms. In Brazil alone, the area planted with soya is already the size of the entire United Kingdom. Native habitats are being destroyed, including biodiversity rich ones like the Brazilian Cerrado, a globally important savannah which is responsible for 5% of the world’s biodiversity.

Food producers, retailers and consumers, argues WWF, have a responsibility to use their buying and eating choices to reduce the pressure on ecosystems like the Cerrado. WWF UK is calling on supermarkets, producers and famers to sign up to credible multi-stakeholder schemes, such as the Round Table for Responsible Soy (RTRS), which sets strict environmental and social standards for production. Soya grown on land cleared in the dramatic rush to deforest that we are currently experiencing could not be RTRS certified, said a WWF UK representative.

RTRS soya is available for sale for the first time this year and WWF UK is asking businesses in the UK to sign up to the scheme to help to create demand for the certified soya and to expand the initiative. UK members of RTRS already include M&S, Waitrose, Asda and Unilever as well as producers of agricultural inputs, animal feed and biofuels. WWF is asking UK consumers to back the campaign and ask their local supermarkets to sign up to RTRS.

Other ways to reduce the environmental damage done by farms is to change our diets, cut down on waste, and support effective legislation to protect valuable habitats.

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Alison Wheatley

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