New WWF statement on RTRS, Monsanto etc.
2.World Wildlife Fund - A PROFILE
3.Against 'Responsible' GM soy: reply to Solidaridad, WWF
NOTE: All of you who've written to WWF to plead with it to quit the RTRS greenwashing exercise, in the light of Monsanto and Syngenta being welcomed onto the RTRS board, may be surprised to know that while you've not yet had the courtesy of a proper reply from WWF, it quietly put up a statement on its website some 4 DAYS AGO indicating it has no intention of changing its position. (item 1)
In its statement WWF declares that it "has a history of promoting GMO-free soy, as evidenced by its development and promotion of the Basel Criteria for Responsible Soy" but the Basel Criteria were set to one side when it joined the RTRS.
And talk of encouraging "companies to pursue GMO-free production and commit to GMO-free soy in their procurement policies" is totally meaningless when the companies involved in the RTRS are the likes of Monsanto, Syngenta, ADM, Cargill, etc. etc.
It's hard to know whether this statement should be seen as naive, or worse. WWF needs to work in harmony with the rest of the environmental movement to stop the devastation being caused by GM soy. It needs to directly support the small farmers, local communities and indigenous people fighting to stop the GM soy onslaught, and to support consumer resistance to GM soy in animal feed and the use of more local and sustainable sources of animal feed.
Nothing else will work.
EXTRACT: Corporations such as Shell, ExxonMobile and Monsanto are major funders of WWF, meaning that WWF is allying "with forces that are destroying the world's remaining ecosystems". (item 2)
1.WWF - World Wide Fund for Nature statement, 17 February 2009
Established in 2005, the RTRS [Round Table on Resonsible Soy] http://www.responsiblesoy.org/ is a multi-stakeholder initiative which aims to, among other objectives, facilitate a global dialogue on soy production that is economically viable, socially equitable and environmentally sound.
The RTRS provides stakeholders and interested parties - social organizations and business and industry - with the opportunity to jointly develop global solutions leading to responsible soy production.
These include development of criteria for the responsible production and sourcing of soy.
The RTRS is currently developing a set of principles and criteria (P&Cs) for responsible soy production that include requirements to halt conversion of areas with high conservation value, to promote best management practices, to ensure fair working conditions, and to respect land tenure claims. Likely to be ratified by the RTRS General Assembly in May 2009, the RTRS does not yet have a certification system in place to verify compliance with the P&Cs.
WWF is a founding member of the RTRS, and a representative from WWF Brazil currently sits on the RTRS Executive Board.
WWF offices in key soy producing and buying countries across the globe are actively working to ensure that the certification systems being developed by the RTRS will encompass strong environmental safeguards.
WWF is currently the target of a letter writing campaign led by GM Watch http://www.gmwatch.eu/ for its participation in the RTRS.
This campaign was precipitated by the RTRS Executive Board's decision to accept two global companies that promote GM technology, Monsanto and Syngenta, as full members of the RTRS.
The campaign's letters accuse WWF of greenwashing the GMO soy industry and ask WWF to end its involvement with the RTRS.
WWF's position on GM organisms includes:
*A moratorium on use or release of GMOs into the general environment until ecological interactions are fully researched and safeguards put in place
*Regulatory frameworks for environmental use and release of GMOs should support the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
*Transparent, comprehensive environmental impact assessment of planned releases into the environment
*Avoidance of additional impacts through genetic modifications
*The control of gene technology
WWF Policy on GM http://assets.panda.org/downloads/gmospositionpaperwwfinternational1999.pdf (PDF)
WWF believes that the RTRS cannot be effective in helping to prevent the environmental impacts of soy production, such as forest conversion, habitat loss, soil degradation, water use and pesticide use, unless it applies both to GM soy and GM-free soy.
As stated clearly on its website http://www.responsiblesoy.org/faq.php, the RTRS process is inclusive of all soy production methods, including conventional, GMO, organic, etc.
One recent study estimates that GMO soy represents 70% of the world's soy production. This includes:
*95% of the Argentina production,
*92% of the US and
*62% of Brazil.
These are the world's leading soy producer countries and together they represent 81% of global production. *
Eliminating GMO soy producers from the RTRS would greatly limit its potential to mitigate environmental impacts.
The Roundtable format enables stakeholders to have an open dialogue on how best to mitigate these environmental impacts and improve production practices.
WWF does not agree with all the viewpoints presented, nor do we endorse the positions of all the stakeholders.
However, WWF believes that by developing standards with other stakeholders, we can have a far greater impact than by refusing to participate.
WWF participation in the RTRS does not negate WWF's policy on GM organisms, nor should our participation in Roundtable discussions be construed as WWF endorsing GM production because other members of the multi-stakeholder body happen to be active in this field.
WWF has a history of promoting GMO-free soy, as evidenced by its development and promotion of the Basel Criteria for Responsible Soy... http://www.panda.org/what_we_do/knowledge_centres/forests/publications/?16872 ...(a scheme that preceded RTRS), and it will continue to do so within and outside the RTRS.
*Work with the RTRS to explore and promote options for identifying and labeling RTRS soy that is GM-free. The preferred approach is to include an optional protocol within RTRS for those who want to verify that soy is GM free. If this fails, other options include use of the Basel criteria or systems already operating in national markets to identify GM-free products should be pursued.
*Encourage companies to pursue GMO-free production and commit to GMO-free soy in their procurement policies
2.World Wildlife Fund
Candida Hadley, McMaster University
Operating in over one hundred countries, employing 4,000 people globally, and boasting five million supporters on five continents, the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF, is one of the world's largest environmental organizations...
WWF is a "global conservation organization" that works to "stop and eventually reverse environmental degradation and”¦ build a future where people live in harmony with nature" (www.panda.org). Among their guiding principles WWF has pledged to "be global, multicultural and non party political," and to "involve local communities and indigenous peoples in the planning and execution of its field programmes, respecting their cultural as well as economic needs"(www.panda.org).
Despite its international success there are some animal welfare organizations, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, that oppose some of WWF's policies.
In addition to this issue of animal welfare, there is also a great deal of controversy surrounding WWF's relations with Indigenous and traditional peoples. Although WWF claims to maintain partnerships with Indigenous peoples who live in ecologically-sensitive areas, complaints about WWF's treatment of Indigenous peoples have emerged all over the world. One complaint is that the establishment of Protected Areas and National Parks has often led to the eviction of Indigenous and traditional peoples from their lands and has cut short the land claims being made by these peoples.
There are also concerns about the conflicts of interest that arise from the funding relationships that WWF has with governments, multilateral agencies, and private corporations. Corporations such as Shell, ExxonMobile and Monsanto are major funders of WWF, meaning that WWF is allying "with forces that are destroying the world's remaining ecosystems" (Chapin 2004).
This funding has several consequences. For example, WWF cannot ally itself with Indigenous peoples who are fighting these corporation's activities without endangering their funding, and their government and corporate ties mean that they may not oppose the government corruption and inaction that is often responsible for environmental degradation. WWF excuses its lack of action in "national matters" with the suggestion that they wish to remain apolitical, but critics believe that WWF is more concerned with the science of biodiversity than social realities.
Chapin, Mac. 2004. A challenge to conservationists. World Watch 17: 6.
Wicked Wildlife Fund website. www.WickedWildlifeFund.com (accessed 16 August 2005).
World Wildlife Fund website. www.panda.org (accessed 16 August 2005).
[see also: http://www.gmwatch.eu/archives/47-WWF-still-accomplice-to-greenwashing.html ]
3.Against 'Responsible' GM soy: reply to Solidaridad, WWF
By Nina Holland
LaSojaMata/Corporate Europe Observatory, November 2008
The Round Table on Responsible Soy has been strongly criticised by many social and campesino movements from soy producing countries. Nevertheless, Dutch NGOs Solidaridad and WWF now go a step further by organising the 'GM soy debate - Common sense on GM soy' in order to make GM soy certifyable as 'responsible'. This shows how perverted the RTRS process really is.
With video of protest action in Amsterdam on dec 9, 2008
Link to report: http://www.lasojamata.org/en/node/312
In the IKON radio program De Andere Wereld of November 1st, Flip Vonk of ASEED called the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) a 'naive and dangerous' initiative. We would like to respond to Solidaridad’s comment on this, which is published on www.solidaridad.nl. (written in Dutch, translation below this article)
The first sentence on the Round Table website (www.responsiblesoy.org) reads as follows:
“The soy industry is fundamental for economical growth and job creation in producer countries, but it has imposed the expansion of agricultural frontiers at a high social and environmental cost.”
This starting point clearly shows what the problem is with the RTRS and what it aims to do. The Round Table’s objective is to create a voluntary certification system for ‘responsible’ soy, based on a set of criteria developed by the industry and a number of NGO’s.
The RTRS does not try to counter the soy expansion, therefore the ‘high social and environmental costs’ can continue to increase to the alleged benefit of ‘economical growth’ and ‘job creation’. Is it ‘responsible’ to accept these costs? Economical growth and jobs for whom, where and how many? While the countryside is turned into a depopulated soy desert, a few jobs are created in the banking and pesticide industry. Economical growth is not at all distributed evenly among society; on the contrary.
These considerations are highly political questions. The Round Table supporters are trying very hard to de-politicise these issues. This perfectly fits the agenda of the Dutch government that support the RTRS financially, under the pretext of sustainability. An example of this argument, as stated by Jan Maarten Dros of Solidaridad in the IKON program, is that through the Round Table, the European consumer ‘..regains a bit of transparency that we lost with globalisation’ . This European consumer should thus be happy to be made responsible for decades of Dutch and EU policy, driven by industry’s private interests, that has shaped that ‘globalisation’ and has promoted massive soy imports and factory farming. That same consumer is not being told that it might be better to eat less or no meat, because RTRS participant VION (Dutch mega pig slaughter company) would not be too pleased with that message.
And how does that ‘bit of transparency’ bring any benefit to the 90.000 campesinos and indigenas in Paraguay who yearly leave their land to try find an existence in the city slums, on garbage dumps or in foreign countries? These people don’t fit in the large scale agro-export soy model that inundates the country, and they never will. They are the collateral damage of the agro-export model. This model, based on the use of GM soy and glyphosate (Roundup), cannot co-exist with small scale campesino-agriculture. This is currently resulting in severe conflicts, like now in the rural areas of Paraguay, principally conflicts over access to land and over the use of the herbicide Roundup in soy cultivation, which affects all other crops around.
With the application of RTRS criteria, we will neither get back the forests that have already disappeared, and that still will disappear, in order to make way for soy. The problem with the certification of ‘responsible soy’ is that the industry is given the opportunity to show good will, while soy expansion can continue undisturbed, ‘responsible’ or not.
This is one of the main reasons why against each of the three Round Table conferences held so far, declarations have been published and protests were organised by a large part of the Brazilian, Argentinean and Paraguayan social movements and NGO’s concerned also supported by organisations elsewhere in the world. The last conference, in April 2008 in Buenos Aires, received counter-declarations from both Friends of the Earth and the Global Forest Coalition (see www.lasojamata.org).
The Paraguayan, Argentinian and Brazilian campesino movements in general do not recognise the Round Table as a legitimate forum for them to achieve anything. RTRS membership is therefore dominated by soy producers and agribusiness transnationals including Cargill, ADM, Bunge and Unilever. This is reflected in the meetings of the RTRS. Industry takes a hard position against proposals to favour small producers by applying certain criteria less rigidly. According to the minutes of one of the conferences, an industry participant even claims that“..small farmers should not be allowed to ruin the planet” (!).
BP, Shell, Greenergy, Biopetrol Trading and Neste Oil have also joined the RTRS, because of the expected booming demand for ‘bio’diesel. This makes the Round Table even more counterproductive and therefore dangerous, as it actively contributes to the legitimation of the use of soy oil as ‘bio’diesel; an extra market, adding extra value to soy as a product.
Our report ‘The Round Table on IR-responsible Soy’ (see www.lasojamata.org), which was published for the occasion of the 3rd Round Table conference in Buenos Aires, shows how European corporations that are a member of the Round Table, at the same time push their other, destructive agendas, supported by EU politicians. Yet these corporations keep pointing at their RTRS membership, when confronted with questions about the (un)sustainability of the soy sector a good example of greenwashing.
A case in point is the Dutch and European associations for the animal feed industry (represented respectively by NEVEDI and FEFAC) and MVO (Dutch Product Board for Margarine, Fats and Oils). These organisations actively participate in an outright scandalous campaign at EU level, which is aimed at breaking down one of the few rules that put some control on the use of GMO's in the EU. At present, the EU prohibits any contamination of products with non-authorised (thus untested, illegal) GMO’s. The European feed industry, and to a certain extent also the food industry, is fighting hard to get rid of this zero tolerance policy, and uses blatantly misleading arguments to achieve their aim.
This takes us to the issue of genetically modified, RoundupReady (RR) soy. This GM soy, made by the transnational Monsanto (whose reputation needs little comment, see the book and film ‘The World According to Monsanto’), has been made resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, another Monsanto product. Practically all soy produced in Argentina and Paraguay, and an increasing share of Brazilian soy, is RoundupReady. Therefore, it has been clear from the very start of the Round Table in 2005 that this GM RoundupReady soy will also have to be certifyable as ‘responsible’. Indeed, the current draft principles and criteria do not discriminate between GM and conventional soy. Also the fact that the association of Argentina’s big RR soy producers (AAPRESID) has been a member of the RTRS Steering Committee from the beginning, makes it perfectly evident that if the RTRS gets its way, the market will be supplied with ‘responsible’ GM soy.
However, the introduction of GM RR soy seeds in combination with Roundup has been co-responsible for the explosive expansion of soy production, because of the way it promotes production at an even larger scale. The collateral damage that comes with this system can be seen everywhere: fumigations with Roundup (and other agrotoxics) by airplanes, tractors or mosquitos, kill nearby food crops, trees, and have severe and acute health impacts for the people living in the area. In other words, the environment becomes practically unlivable for anything else but soy. In Paraguay, 60% of agricultural land is now covered by (mainly RR) soy. It is hard to see how a certification inspector, or the staff of Solidaridad or WWF, is going to check every bi-weekly fumigation of every ‘responsible’ soy field: whether the wind is not too strong or is in the wrong direction, whether the pilot closes the pesticide tank when flying above a village or a school, for example. One usually cannot rely on local authorities to monitor this, as governors and mayors are often soy producers themselves.
The Dutch NGOs involved in the Round Table, that is Solidaridad and WWF, are now taking another leap in further legitimising a world in which food production is dominated by GM and agribusiness. In cooperation with Wageningen University, they are organising the “GM soy Debate: Creating common sense on GM soy!”. According to the conference home page (http://gmsoydebate.global-connections.nl/), the current debate on GM soy is ‘polarised and unsatisfactory’. The organisers state that GM soy is a reality that is better accepted. They are clearly not initiating a debate on whether or not to use GM soy. (A position that, by the way, was until recently not known to everyone within WWF. This is shown by an interview on GMO’s with a WWF representative to the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the Biodiversity Convention and the 4th Meeting of the Parties (MOP4) to the Biosafety Protocol, on GMO's, in Bonn last May. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa11xN6EWSY). In this interview he claims that ‘WWF is clearly against GMO’s’.)
Members of the GM Soy Debate Steering Committee include WWF, Solidaridad, the earlier mentioned association AAPRESID, their Brazilian counterpart APDC, and the Dutch Product Board MVO. AidEnvironment, a Dutch consultancy involved in the RTRS from the beginning, takes care of communications and organises a ‘stakeholder conference’ on December 9th 2008 in Amsterdam. This conference aims for a ‘constructive dialogue’, that inter alia should result into “including possible GM soy specific risks and opportunities into sustainability frameworks” and the “identification of GM soy applications under development that are specifically aimed at improving the livelihood of poor farmers in Latin America.”
In this way, these Dutch NGOs are making a strong effort to de-politicise a debate about an issue that is anything but politically neutral. This new step goes much beyond ‘naÃ¯ve and dangerous’. Taking into account the devastation caused so far by (RR) soy to the Latin American continent, this initiative lacks any sense of reality, means a selling out of any principle, and strips the word ‘sustainability’ from any remaining meaning.
Finally, returning to the expansion problem, it might be clarifying to mention the very damaging role that WWF has played in the EU agrofuel debate. WWF was the only organisation publicly supporting the European Commission proposal for an obligatory agrofuel target by 2020. By the end of 2007, the WWF campaigner in charge still maintained however that if no binding social criteria would be included in the proposal, WWF would drop its support. When the Commission as expected did not include any social criteria, WWF broke that promise and did not drop its support for the 10% target, to great anger of other social and environmental organisations in and outside Brussels. WWF’s logic is that this 10% target will lead to more demand for certified products like palm oil and soy. In this way, certification even contributes to the further expansion of monocultures, this time serving European car driver and relieving European car companies like BMW from being forced to invest too much in less polluting cars.
This is in stark contrast with the reality in Paraguay. Last April, the population chose a leftist president, Fernando Lugo, who is now strongly pressured by actions and mobilisations to implement his promises for land reform. His problems are many, because he does not control the legal power yet and that the Colorados (dictator Stroessner’s party, that kept ruling as a dictatorial party after he was thrown out for 61 years in total) robbed nearly all state budgets after the elections.
However, the 12th of November of this year was a historical moment, because on that day Lugo installed a national council for land reform, excluding the soy producers and the Ministry of Agriculture. The sojeros were outraged, and threatened with civil war.
The Frente Social y Popular (FSP) is a new coalition that was closely involved with the formation of this new council for land reform. Many of the movements that are part of the FSP were also represented at the protests in front of the luxury hotel in AsunciÃ³n, which was the location of the 2nd RTRS conference in 2007. These protests were directed both to the agribusiness representatives inside, and to the NGO’s involved.(1) Therefore, the claim that is sometimes made, namely that this type of direct action by social movements outside the conference is helpful for the negotiation position of these NGO’s by putting pressure on the corporations, is more than inappropriate from a moral point of view.
The Round Table for ‘Responsible’ Soy is counterproductive and should be abandoned. We also call for a boycott of the ‘stakeholder conference’ on GM soy on 9th December, organised by Solidaridad, WWF and Wageningen University.
(1) There are interesting examples showing how these protests are dealt with by those concerned on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyvIe-ax_aI - 2 parts).
translation from http://www.solidaridad.nl/nieuws/2008/11/05/ook-sojamarkt-oplossingen-werken
Also working on solutions within the soy market.
November 5th 2008
"Naive and dangerous", that is how Flip Vonk from the Dutch action group Aseed calls the way in which Solidaridad works on responsible soy in an emission of the IKON- radio station. "If you now ask large scale soy processors why they still import that amount of soy, while they know about the repression and deforestation, then you get the answer: we are working on it. I blame a Solidaridad and also a WWF that they let that happen too easily."
Solidaridad sees that resistance to the wrongs of the soy industry is necessary. But to be able to diminish these, it is necessary to also work within the market on solutions with the big soy players.
Together with soy producers, buyers, banks and social organisations Solidaridad tries to establish a standard for responsible soy. This happens in the consultative committee Round Table on Responsible soy.
Jan Maarten Dros, soy-expert with Solidaridad (1): "I see that already some companies are changing their policies. And i hope that it can be an example for others. And I hope that the soy buyers such as supermarkets like Ahold and animal feed companies, are going to start putting demands on the way in which soy is produced. At Solidaridad we go for mainstream, as only when the biggest share of the market will meet the responsible criteria, we will contribute to the solving of serious problems".
(1) note from translator: previously Jan Maarten Dros was working with Aid Environment, a Dutch Consultancy agency that since the start of the RTRS has served as it's promotional and 'scientific' back up.