Very Little Soy is Actually Sustainably Produced
While other commodity crops have much higher sustainable certification levels, only three percent of the worldâ€™s soy supply is certified sustainable, according to a new paper by KPMG International, titled A Roadmap to Responsible Soy. By contrast, 50 percent of non-farmed whitefish is certified, 16 percent of coffee, and 14 percent of global palm oil production. The paper is part of KMPG's Sustainable Insight Series.
Soy is a valuable crop and yields more protein per hectare than most other crops. Soy demand has increased by around 70 percent in the last 10 years. However, as soy production increases, its environmental and social impacts also increase. These impacts include deforestation in the Amazon and cases of poor working conditions in India and China. In Brazil, an area roughly equivalent to South Korea, 10 million hectares, was brought into soy production between 2000 and 2010, a 73 percent growth rate. It is estimated that up to half of it may have been deforested. Brazil and Argentina account for almost half of global soybean production.
Why is there such weak market demand for certified soy? One of the reasons the report gives is that since most of the soy for the U.S. market is grown domestically there are less environmental and social issues. However, there is one potential driver in the U.S. for certified soy, which the report doesn't touch upon: the increasing demand for organics, or for genetically modified (GMO) food products to be labeled. A number of states have GMO labeling bills pending, and one state, Connecticut, recently passed a labeling bill. Most of the soy grown in the U.S. is GMO.
Although the report points out that soy can often be a hidden ingredient, there is a growing demand for products where soy is the main ingredient such as mock meats (think meatless burger patties). You can now find them at virtually any grocery store. That is something the report doesnâ€™t mention. One of the reasons for the growing popularity of mock meats is the increasing awareness of the health and environmental concerns of meat consumption. See, for example, the growing popularity of Meatless Mondays. Burger King, a profoundly pro-meat place if there ever was one, promotes Meatless Mondays and even tweets about it. If the trend to eat less meat continues alongside the trend for GMO labeling, there will eventually be more of a market demand for certified soy in the U.S.
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Read Sustainable Insight: A roadmap to responsible soy at KPMG.
Soybean image via Shutterstock.