Key points on WWF and RTRS
Here is a summary providing the key points of both WWF's statement and our rebuttal.
For WWF's full statement see: -
WWF's Involvement in the RTRS due to its Connection to the GM Soy Industry
For the full commentary on their statement see:
KEY POINTS ON WWF STATEMENT
***WWF says it has a history of promoting GM-free soy, as evidenced by its development and promotion of the Basel Criteria for Responsible Soy.***
COMMENT: But, in fact, when the multinational soy processors refused to engage in WWF's Basel Criteria, WWF abandoned this programme in order to start the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS). One of the primary differences between the Basel Criteria and the RTRS is that RTRS allows GM soy. So WWF's real history on this issue is one of retreat.
***WWF says it will "Work with the RTRS to explore and promote options for identifying and labeling RTRS soy that is GM-free".***
COMMENT: But such a commitment is meaningless when the governing board of the RTRS is dominated by multinational corporations that are deeply committed to GM soy, and the board has established a strong policy of RTRS criteria NOT considering the GM dimension of the soy.
***WWF says it will "Encourage companies to pursue GMO-free production and commit to GMO-free soy in their procurement policies."
COMMENT: But if WWF were really serious about this, they would have done this years ago. Instead, they allowed the RTRS process to proceed without any consideration of the GM issue to the point where it is virtually impossible to incorporate it in the assessment process. WWF's membership generally opposes GMOs and wants real protection of the Amazon, not weak criteria - see below - that can be used to greenwash GM soy.
***WWF claims it supports a moratorium on GM releases until research has been done and "safeguards" are in place.***
COMMENT: But WWF's written policy opposing GMOs exists only on paper, and it's outside the bounds of the RTRS. Leading scientists on the staff of the WWF (most notably Jason Clay) state clearly that WWF makes no judgments regarding GMOs. They say that technologies like GM are not their focus, but that they are focusing on "preserving habitat" and other critical environmental issues. In the context of the RTRS, WWF have opened wide the door to GM being labelled as "responsible," despite abundant evidence that GM soy has been a central element in the expansion of agricultural practices that exploit and degrade the environment and rural people. In other words, WWF's GM policy is simply not being implemented in the soy sector.
***WWF claims that the RTRS can help prevent the environmental impacts of soy production, such as forest conversion, habitat loss, soil degradation, water use and pesticide use, in relation both to GM soy and GM-free soy.***
COMMENT: But the RTRS criteria fail to prevent many, if not all, of these environmental impacts. Most worryingly, although the RTRS was supposedly established to protect the degradation of the Amazon region, the RTRS criteria have only extremely weak provisions to protect the Amazon. They state that any area zoned by local government for agricultural development may be exploited and soy produced thereon will be considered "responsible." Local zoning authorities are often influenced by incentives, including bribes, to zone any land that a developer wants to develop, including high conservation value areas like Amazon rainforest. In other words, WWF's RTRS program will classify as "responsible" land zoned as suitable for agricultural development even if it's based on bribery.
***RTRS states that high conservation areas are excluded from development under all circumstances.***
COMMENT: But this is only a temporary, short-term (3-year) exclusion. The system is that if mechanisms are not in place within 3 years to compensate owners of high conservation value areas for NOT commercially exploiting those areas, then these areas can be cleared for agriculture. Since it is unlikely that such mechanisms will be in place within the 3-year time-frame, the RTRS will not protect the Amazon or other high conservation areas from destruction.
*** WWF says the RTRS doesn't yet have a certification system in place to verify compliance with its criteria for responsible soy production.***
COMMENT: Its criteria are designed to serve as the basis for developing a certification of soy as "RTRS compliant." This will certify soy as "responsible." At least two certification programs in the pipeline aim at using the RTRS principles and criteria as the basis for certifying *GM soy* as "sustainable."
1.One is owned by Aapresid, the Argentinean No-Till Farmers Association (no till is synonymous with GM soy production in Argentina). All of the major biotech seed companies, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Pioneer-Dupont, and Dow, are members of Aapresid.
2.The other is being developed by an organization called UTZ. The same member of the WWF who is on the RTRS Development Group (which is the committee responsible for developing the RTRS principles and criteria), is also on the board of directors of UTZ.
In reality, everything WWF says it's trying to do on the GM soy issue is window dressing. Either the key decisions affecting RTRS have already been taken, or WWF - under pressure - is offering to do things that are simply too little, too late.
Only by quitting the RTRS can WWF expose this greenwashing exercise for GM soy rather than enhancing it with the panda logo. We also know that this is not just the view of GMWatch but is the view of people right across the environmental movement including many of WWF's own supporters.