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What is soy, and what is it used for?

Soy is a highly popular annual crop that produces edible beans. The plant has many varieties, some of which can grow up to 2 meters high. Soybeans are rich in proteins (40%-50%) and oil (20%). Soy yields lots of protein per hectare and its price-quality ratio compares favourably with other protein sources. Soy oil has a favourable fatty acid composition. Worldwide, soy has therefore become a major source of vegetable protein and oil for both humans and livestock. Today, soybean meal is widely used to feed pigs, poultry and cattle, contributing to the production of meat, eggs and dairy products. Soybean oil is also used extensively in many processed food products such as margarines, dressings and mayonnaise. More recently, soybean oil has also been used to produce biofuels for car engines or power plants.

Where and how are soybeans grown?

Soybeans are cultivated on both large-scale and small-scale (family) farms. At present, most of the world’s soy producers are located in the USA, Brazil, Argentina, China and India. In 2010, soy fields in those five countries together covered an area almost the size of Venezuela, producing ninety percent of soybean worldwide. With 308.000 square kilometres (km2) of soy fields within its borders, the USA topped the list. Following in its footsteps were Brazil (249.000 km2), Argentina (194,000 km2), China (67.500 km2) and China (68.000 km2). Paraguay, Bolivia, India and Uruguay are important for soy production as well. (WWF; The growth of soy. Impact and solutions; 2014) Soy cultivation has grown rapidly over the last decade, mostly so in Latin America. Over the next two decades, demand for soy will continue to increase when a growing number of people, many of them in China, will be able to afford food products that are rich in protein.

Which world regions are the biggest importers of soy?

China and Europe are the world’s biggest importers of soy products. In 2013, China imported more than 70 million tonnes of soybeans, which represents approximately 63% of the global soybean exports. Europe imported almost 13 million tonnes of soybeans and more than 18 million tonnes of soybean meal, which respectively represent 12% of total soybean exports and 31% of total soybean meal exports. (Profundo, 2015).


What is “responsible soy”?

The term “responsible soy” refers to soy that was produced with considerably less negative social and environmental impact thanks to criteria that were formulated by the global multi-stakeholder platform Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS).

What are the effects of increasing soy production?

An increase in global soybean production can have positive and negative effects. On the one hand, for many farmers in various producer nations, especially developing countries, soy sales are increasingly important sources of income, offering them a way out of poverty. On the other hand, the expansion of agricultural land used for soybean cultivation, if done irresponsibly, can hurt people or vital natural environments. For example, expansion can lead to social conflicts (e.g. over land rights, labour rights, rural out-migration) or environmental degradation (e.g. clearing of primary rainforests, water pollution, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity).If done responsibly, however, soybean cultivation can be expanded without such negative impact.

Who defines what constitutes responsible soy production?

In 2010, after years of extensive dialogue between stakeholders from the entire soy supply chain, and environmental and social NGOs, Members of the Round Table on Responsible Soy approved the “RTRS Production Standard – Version 1.0”. The RTRS Standard was drafted by the RTRS Development Group of Principles and Criteria for Responsible Soy (DG), which comprised representatives from all three RTRS member constituencies: soy producers, industry and civil society organizations. Between October 2007 and March 2009, the development group undertook three public consultations, inviting outside stakeholders to provide input into the RTRS Standard. Large and small soy producers from various world regions field-tested the requirements for a year before the Standard was finalized.

The RTRS Standard was reviewed in 2013 (called RTRS Production Standard 2.0), completing a total of 100 indicators which together characterize responsible soy production.

Would it not be better to produce less soy than to produce responsible soy?

Using less soy may at first seem like the easiest solution, but the growing demand for vegetable proteins and oils then would have to be met by the expansion of other crops, all of which have their own sustainability issues. With more people in developing countries reaching higher income levels, there is little doubt that global demand for plant resources will grow. The best we can do to prevent injury to people or the planet is set criteria for responsible agricultural expansion, and to convince as many soy producers as possible to adhere to these criteria. That is what the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) is all about.


What is the Round Table on Responsible Soy?

The Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS) was established in 2006 to enable soy producers, civil society organizations and industry to have a global dialogue on economically viable, socially equitable and environmentally sound soy production. The RTRS has enabled these parties to set up a voluntary certification system for global production and consumption of certified responsible soy. By mid-2015, more than 180 Members from countries throughout the world had joined the RTRS.

Can the RTRS mitigate negative impact of growing global soy production?

The Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) is not the only way to mitigate negative impact of expanding soy production, nor does it replace other ways. But yes, it has the potential to be a significant part of the solution, if only because it enables the market to contribute. As a global multi-stakeholder initiative, the RTRS puts the responsibility for mitigating negative effects of growing demand for vegetable oils and proteins on the right shoulders: those of society as a whole. It rewards producers and users of soy for responsible business practices by building and maintaining a credible and reliable certification system, and it sets the stage for a viable and growing market for responsible soy as opposed to non-responsible soy. When most actors in the soy value chain embrace the RTRS Principles, the soy sector as a whole will shift towards production methods that are friendly for people and for the planet. Among the key success factors are:
  • Responsible soy is available on the market;
  • RTRS Certification has positive impact on people and the planet;
  • RTRS’ efforts span all world regions and countries;
  • RTRS’ efforts cover all types of use: feed, food, industrial derivatives and biofuels.

Will the RTRS solve all sustainability problems in soy production?

The RTRS does not pretend to solve all problems. The RTRS is one of the credible solutions to solve sustainability issues in soy production, aiming to promote responsible soy production by improving production methods at the farm level and to enable all actors in the soy supply chain to also take responsibility. While the RTRS is not the only instrument to address negative impact of growing soy production, it is a major one. Other initiatives, such as the Amazon Moratorium and national and international government policies, can and should continue to play their own and complimentary roles. The WWF 'Soy Report Card', published in 2014, states that RTRS is a viable solution to achieve responsible soy production, that is, without harming vital ecosystems or people.

Why does the RTRS Production Standard not halt all soy expansion?

In the coming decades, the planet’s population is expected to grow and the need for food will increase. Subsequently, it is necessary to increase agricultural production and converse areas into agricultural land. Not allowing soy production to expand would merely shift agricultural expansion to other crops, all of which have their own potential sustainability issues. The RTRS was set up to encourage responsible soy production and to help ensure that future expansion of the sector will not harm valuable biodiversity, for example by using existing agricultural lands more efficiently than before. Ideally, all other crops would follow suit.

Who are the Members of RTRS?

RTRS includes stakeholders from the entire soy supply chain as well as those organisations, private or public, who want to support responsible soy. The first ones are called ‘Participant Members’ and have a right to vote, and the second ones are the   Observer Members. Therefore, Participant Members come from three main constituencies:

1. Producers (smallholders and large organisations) 2. Industry, Trade and Finance (including supply chain actors such as crushers, traders, food and feed manufacturers and financial institutions) 3. Civil society organisations (including social and environmental NGOs).

By mid-2015, the RTRS had more than 180 Members representing these three constituencies. Producer Members include Amaggi and SLC Agrícola (Brazil), Grupo Los Grobo (Argentina) and farmers from India and China; Industry, Trade and Finance Members include Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus, IFC, Carrefour, Waitrose, ASDA, Ahold, Unilever, Shell, Wilmar International, Marks&Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets, Tesco, and others; Civil Society Members include WWF, Solidaridad and The Nature Conservancy. The RTRS website carries a full and up-to-date membership list.

The RTRS is said to lack support of important stakeholders. Is that correct?

Not all stakeholders have become RTRS Members yet, but the number of stakeholders supporting the RTRS is continuously growing. At present, more than 180 stakeholders from countries throughout the world have become Members. They include small-, medium- and large-scale producers from South America and Asia, retail companies, feed and biofuel producers, leading traders, global and local NGOs from South America and India. RTRS is supported by civil society organisations like WWF and Fauna and Flora International.

Who pays for the work of the RTRS?

The RTRS receives funds from all of its Members (through annual membership fees) and from the trade in RTRS Certified Responsible Soy (through a small fee for every certified tonne that is traded). The association gets additional funding from some national governments. Specific events are sometimes sponsored by private organisations such as trade associations or corporations.

What has the RTRS achieved so far?

RTRS is an internationally recognised Standard for responsible soy. Over 4K producers in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Paraguay and the United States produce over 1,2 million tonnes of RTRS Certified Responsible Soy, which improves agricultural practices of producers, increases workers’ safety, contributes to forest preservation, and assures proper payments and respect for land rights. The RTRS has built a framework that enables the world to verifiably produce and source certified responsible soy. The framework includes:
  • The RTRS Production Standard: principles and criteria which ban the conversion of areas with high conservation value to agricultural land, promote the best management practices, ensure fair working conditions, and respect land tenure claims. Third-party auditors certify soy producers who adhere to the RTRS Standard, in a transparent and standardized way.
  • Chain of Custody Standard to make sure that soy used in a product comes from responsible sources.
  • RTRS Trading Platform to enable any soy grower to participate even if he/she does not have access to fully separated responsible soy supply chains.
  • A Code of Conduct that all Members of the RTRS have to subscribe to.
  • A Grievance Procedure to enable impartial, fair and transparent reviews of alleged breaches of the RTRS Production Standard or Code of Conduct by RTRS Members.
Following the building of this framework, the first stages of its real world implementation have been achieved:
  • Independent, third-party auditors issued the world’s first certificate for responsibly produced soy in May 2011
  • In June 2011, the first 85K tonnes of responsible soy were purchased by industrial users.
  • In 2014, the RTRS registered the purchase of over 1,3 million tonnes of RTRS Certified Responsible Soy, nearly 50% higher than in 2013 and an all-time record.


What are the Principles of Responsible Soy production?

The RTRS Production Standard – Version 2.0 document defines five Principles of Responsible Soy production. The document includes criteria and requirements at more practical levels. 1. Legal compliance & good business practices. 2. Responsible labour conditions. 3. Responsible community relations. 4. Environmental responsibility. 5. Good agriculture practices. The RTRS Production Standard is internationally recognized by leading organizations, such as the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), the Banking Environment Initiative (BEI), the Retailers' Soy Group (RSG) and is verified by independent, third party certification bodies.

Shouldn’t the RTRS Production Standard be more strict?

The essence of the Round Table on Responsible Soy is bringing the various constituencies together and help them establish a meaningful compromise. By definition, the final RTRS Production Standard is a compromise between the legitimate interests and concerns of all stakeholders who participate. The RTRS Production Standard subsequently derives its strength from the fact that it is widely embraced by all the constituencies, enabling it to transform a global, mainstream commodity sector. While some might say the RTRS Production Standard is too strict on farmers, at the same time others argue it is not strict enough. RTRS strives consensus and the current Production Standard is a good example of the ‘middle ground’. The Production Standard does not allow expansion in High Conservation Value Areas, and at the same time supports tools to guide responsible expansion in producing countries.

Why is genetically modified soy not excluded from the RTRS standard?

Potential sustainability issues are very similar for GM soy and non-GM soy: use of dangerous pesticides (i.e. those forbidden by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Rotterdam Convention), clearing of primary forests or other high conservation value areas for soy cultivation, poor labour conditions, or irregularities surrounding land tenure.   These days, more than 80% of global soybean fields are planted with genetically modified varieties. If RTRS were to exclude those 80% from its Certification Scheme, clearly the RTRS would not be able to address the crucial environmental and social issues with the majority of producers that cultivate GM soy. Ultimately, the RTRS aims to shift the entire soy sector towards more responsible practices. To achieve its goals, the RTRS will need to work with all producers.

How was the RTRS Production Standard for Responsible Soy Production developed?

The RTRS Standard for Responsible Soy Production was drafted by the RTRS Development Group of Principles and Criteria for Responsible Soy (DG), which comprises representatives from all three RTRS Member constituencies: soy producers, industry and civil society organizations. Between October 2007 and March 2009, the development group held three transparent and open stakeholder consultations during which all stakeholders were invited to provide input.

In each step of the development of the RTRS Production Standard, the DG took the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice for developing and assessing multi-stakeholder standards into account. The ISEAL Codes provide guidelines for open and transparent standard-setting procedures. The two-year multi-stakeholder process led to the ‘RTRS Principles and Criteria for Responsible Soy Production: Field Testing Version’ published in May 2009. The same version was used by National Technical Groups (NTGs) in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, India and China to initiate national interpretation procedures. Also, producers and auditors field-tried this version in various countries.

An International Technical Group (ITG) was convened in March 2010 to review comments coming out of NTGs, public consultations and feedback from field trials and diagnostic audits. Guidance was included from the RTRS Executive Board on the issue of land clearance. At their final meeting, in Brazil in March, 2010, the multi-stakeholder group reached a final set of auditable Principles and Criteria that could be used as a foundation to a certification framework.

This document, after being approved at the 2010 RTRS General Assembly, became the RTRS Standard for Responsible Soy Production – Version 1.0, which was updated in 2013 to its 2.0 version and will reach its 3.0 version after the 2015 review process. It is often referred to simply as ‘the RTRS Production Standard’ or the P&Cs.

Can producers have only parts of their production certified?

Initially, RTRS Producers can designate limited production areas for RTRS Certification. For example, not all farms owned by an RTRS Producer have to be certified at the same time. However, the RTRS Code of Conduct does require its Members to have a plan for continuous improvement at all of its locations and to demonstrate tangible progress based on this plan each and every year.

Is RTRS Certification only accessible to large soy producers?

No, RTRS Certification is meant for small as well as for large farmers. In fact, the RTRS Production Standard contains special provisions for small farmers, and after field-testing by smallholders the Standard was fine-tuned to further improve smallholder access to certification. For example, smallholder cooperatives can apply for group certification, which reduces certification costs per farmer without reducing the quality of certification. The Production Standard also includes smallholder-tailored requirements on workers’ rights to reflect situations typically found at family farms. As in 2015, the RTRS certified more than 20,000 producers in Argentina (7), India (17858), USA (8), China (8), Canada (16) and Brazil (69) according to figures of 2015.

Is it true that RTRS certifies monocultures?

No, that is not correct. The RTRS Production Standard (Principle 5) requires producers to have a plan for Integrated Crop Management (ICM). Compliance with all the criteria of Principle 5 makes it virtually impossible to practice monoculture farming.

Is the remainder of the supply chain covered by RTRS Certification as well?

Yes, the RTRS Production Standard also contains provisions for companies in the responsible soy supply chain. All links in the ‘chain of custody’ of responsible soy, including companies that trade, ship and/or store responsible soy products or their derivatives, need to be certified before they can claim to sell responsible soy. Chain of Custody Certification provides assurance to end-buyers that their purchases indeed attribute to soy being produced responsibly. Of course, one company’s certification only applies to those parts of the RTRS Production Standard that are relevant for that particular company.

How is compliance with the RTRS Production Standard monitored?

The RTRS itself does not audit companies against their compliance with the RTRS Production Standard. Instead, the RTRS recognizes independent, third-party auditors and certification bodies that go out to carry out on-the-ground audits. These certification bodies also need to be accredited by national or international Accreditation Bodies to safeguard their quality. Once a company or site has passed the initial audit, it receives a certificate valid for five years. Its compliance is also monitored annually by follow-up audits also carried out by qualified lead auditors.

Will certified companies or RTRS Members be held to account if they break RTRS rules?

Yes, they will. RTRS Members subscribe to a Code of Conduct. If they are found to have acted in breach of the Code, they risk disciplinary measures including termination of their membership. Certified companies that no longer comply with the RTRS Production Standard risk the loss of their certification status.


Under the RTRS Production Standard, can producers still clear forests for soy cultivation?

The RTRS Production Standard does not allow soy cultivation on land that has been cleared of native forests and High Conservation Value Areas after the cut-off date of May 2009. High Conservation Value (HCV) areas are forests, grasslands, watersheds or landscape‐level ecosystems where these values are considered to be of outstanding significance or critical importance. Please find more information about HCVA’s in Annex 4 of the RTRS Production Standard. In 2015, RTRS published large-scale maps and guides showing the regions in Brazil and Paraguay that cannot be converted for soy production. In 2016, the maps for Argentina will be published. These large-scale maps show:
  • “No Go Areas” where there should be no conversion for soy production (in red);
  • “NO Go Areas” which have been converted after RTRS cutoff date (May 2009) (in purple);
  • Areas where the identification of potential HCVAs is required before expanding (in yellow);
  • Areas where expansion is possible following legal requirements (in light green);
  • And areas where there is already soy or other extensive crops
The maps will be available at the World Resources Institute tool, making it possible for RTRS maps to adapt to new technologies. The RTRS Production Standard has introduced rules that require soy farmers to make detailed environmental and social assessments, if needed, before they can expand. The Production Standard will help preserve the Amazon tropical forest and other native forests or HCV areas from being cleared for soy cultivation. In August 2014, the RTRS Certification Standard was acknowledged by the Consumers Goods Forum because of its high contribution to fight deforestation and its role in the improvement of companies’ policies on soy sourcing.

How are ‘high conservation values’ established?

  Almost all natural habitats have at least some conservation values, such as the presence of rare or endemic species, sacred sites or resources that are used by local populations. High Conservation Value (HCV) areas are forests, grasslands, watersheds or landscape‐level ecosystems where these values are considered to be of outstanding significance or critical importance. There are six potential High Conservation Values (HCVs), some social, some ecological, which together cover conservation priorities that many stakeholders share.

The HCV assessment process can be carried out by assessors recognized by the HCV network and typically includes the following three stages: - Identify High Conservation Values that are present by using data that is already present and/or, when necessary, by collecting additional data. - Identify the HCV area and its proper management: the HCV area is the area that must be appropriately managed in order to maintain or enhance the HCVs that were identified. - Establish an appropriate monitoring regime to ensure that the management practices are effective in their aim of maintaining or enhancing the HCVs. Learn more about HCVs at‐hcvf.

How does RTRS develop maps and guides for responsible soy expansion, and check their accuracy?

The RTRS Mapping Project was created as a tool aiming at preserving areas and ecosystems for the preservation of biodiversity and High Conservation Value Areas (HCVA), as well as at identifying opportunities for responsible expansion with low environmental and social impact levels. Reaching an agreement on the best way for guiding soy expansion and promoting conservation of ecosystems was a challenging process, where producers, industry and national and international conservation organizations could combine different perspectives. At the beginning of 2010, a temporary agreement between all the stakeholders was signed. By this agreement, restriction of soy expansion in native forests was decided and development of zoning tools for other ecosystems became a requirement. As this was only a precautionary measure, it was observed that it was necessary to create more categorical mechanisms in the mid-term, with the purpose of defining responsible soy production while safeguarding natural ecosystems. Thus, in the mid-term, we committed ourselves to develop macro-scale maps for Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, which give information on biodiversity and a system that guides responsible soy expansion. RTRS leads the Mapping Project with national coordinators and the creation of  technical working groups, so the maps were developed in a multi-stakeholder atmosphere. Once they are ready, they are submitted to RTRS Executive Board for approval. Brazil and Paraguay’s Mapping Projects are ready, while Argentina’s has started in 2015. The maps will also be available at the World Resources Institute tool to allow the maps to be revised with new technologies and stay up to date. There is no review of the maps foreseen.

Why does the RTRS Production Standard not halt all deforestation?

The RTRS Production Standard forbids the clearing of any area with High Conservation Values (HCV) as well as native forests for the cultivation of soybean. Non-native forests cannot be cleared unless it has been established that they do not harbour High Conservation Values. The RTRS Production Standard uses May 2009 as the cut-off date, meaning that for certification no clearing may have occurred after that date. In August 2014 the RTRS Certification Scheme was acknowledged by the Consumer Goods Forum because of its high contribution to fight deforestation and its role in the improvement of companies’ policies on soy sourcing. The RTRS Certification Scheme is also internationally recognized by leading organizations, such as the Banking Environment Initiative (BEI) and the Retailers' Soy Group (RSG) and is verified by independent, third party certification bodies.



How can companies buy or support RTRS Certified Responsible Soy?

RTRS Certified Responsible Soy is available in all quantities to meet buyers’ demands. Depending on your business strategy, your company can buy RTRS Credits or physical RTRS Certified Soy through mass balance or segregated sourcing:
  • SEGREGATED RTRS Physical Soy. In the Segregated supply chain model, soy from one or more RTRS certified farms is physically kept apart (‘segregated’) from other soy sources throughout the entire supply chain. All links in the supply chain need to be monitored by independent third party certification bodies to ensure that no mixing takes place. Within the segregated stream of RTRS Certified Responsible Soy, genetically modified (GM) soy and non-GM soy are kept apart as well.
  • MASS BALANCE RTRS Physical Soy. In the Mass Balance supply chain model, soy from RTRS certified farms can be mixed with non-certified soy, as long as such mixing is administratively monitored. After mixing, equivalent percentages of certified soy and non-certified soy can be sold to the market.
  • RTRS CREDITS. RTRS Credits can be bought from producers through the RTRS Trading Platform. One Credit is the equivalent of 1 tonne of any soy product (beans, oil or meal, for example).
No matter which model is applied further down the supply chain, the ‘on farm’ certification requirements for soy producers are exactly the same, as all RTRS certified soy farms are required to adhere to the same RTRS Standard for Responsible Soy Production.

What is the added value of buying RTRS Certified Physical Soy?

Buying RTRS soy through physical flows ensures companies of a certified soy producer at the beginning of the certified chain of custody, following the RTRS Principles & Criteria. It enables companies to gain insight into their supply chain, improve the transparency of their value chain and develop a direct link with their soy suppliers.

What is the added value of buying RTRS Credits?

Buying RTRS Credits is a straightforward and effective way to contribute to a responsible production of soy. It helps create a critical mass of certified production which is an essential step in transforming the soy production in a responsible way. After buying RTRS Credits, a company can publicly claim to have supported the responsible production of equivalent volumes of soy products. The RTRS Trading Platform resembles the well established ‘green energy’ and ‘sustainable palm oil’ credit trading systems.

Can I access the EU Renewable Energy Directive market with RTRS certified soy?

Yes, the European Commission has accepted the RTRS EU RED Scheme, which was specifically developed for soy biofuels. The scheme encompasses the RTRS Production Standard, additional EU RED criteria and the EU RED Mass Balance standard. Producers can choose to certify their oil according to the RTRS EU RED Scheme.

Is there sufficient RTRS Certified Responsible Soy on the market?

RTRS Certified Responsible Soy is available on the market. Over 4.000 producers in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, India and Paraguay produce over 1,3 million tonnes of RTRS Certified Responsible Soy. With a 40% growth of RTRS certified hectares in 2014, there is sufficient RTRS Certified Responsible Soy available to meet the growing market demand.

Is the market demand for RTRS Certified Responsible Soy growing or declining?

An ever-growing number of companies in Europe and worldwide chooses RTRS Certified Responsible Soy, either in RTRS Credits or in RTRS Physical Soy. European food manufacturers and retail increasingly integrate sustainability into their purchasing system and specifications for products. Some of the that committed to source responsible soy in 2014 are Colgate-Palmolive, Marfo BV, Feed Alliance, Jumbo Supermarkets, Groan, Arla Foods, the Dutch Food Retail Association and ICA Sverige AB, among others.


What is the added value of RTRS for producers?

RTRS is a comprehensive certification standard that implies agricultural, environmental, social, labour and legal criteria. The added value of RTRS for small and large scale farmers is exactly this combination of criteria. Complying to the RTRS Production Standard leads to an improvement of the operational management of the farm and producing companies. The agricultural practices and working environment improve and producers use less agrochemicals in the cultivation of soy. This positive impact on the agro-ecological and social environment encourages other producers to explore the potential of RTRS Certification for their business.

How does RTRS contribute to respecting land rights?

The RTRS Production Standard ard contains criteria related to, among other things, land use and land ownership conflicts. In areas with traditional land users, conflicting land uses should be avoided or resolved and where rights have been relinquished by traditional land users there is documented evidence necessary.

Does the RTRS prevent displacement of indigenous people and smallholders by big producers?

Yes. The RTRS Production Standard ensures that certified soy producers fully recognize the rights of indigenous people and smallholders. In cases of disputed land rights, comprehensive and participatory community right assessments must be carried out. The RTRS Production Standard requires documented evidence that affected communities have given free, prior and informed consent and have received proper compensation. There must be evidence of fair and transparent communication between producers and communities. Production in indigenous territories, or on lands of which ownership cannot be proven, cannot be certified.

Doesn’t GM soy always cause increased pesticide use?

Many studies have been set up to assess the overall effect of the introduction of glyphosate resistant soy varieties on the use of pesticides. Some concluded that desiccants (such as glyphosate) have replaced more harmful herbicides that were in use before, others found that the emergence of glyphosate resistant weeds led to higher pesticide use. The RTRS doesn’t have definitive answers to such questions either. Environmental impact depends on whether a farmer operates responsibly with regard to the natural surroundings, not just on whether he or she grows GM or non-GM soy. In practice, producers vary wildly in their use of pesticides and/or the types of pesticides they apply. Responsible farmers know that they should properly rotate crops and herbicides to prevent the appearance of pesticide-resistant weeds. The RTRS serves to encourage responsible farm practices overall.

is the impact of RTRS Certified Responsible Soy on the socio-economic status of producers?

RTRS Certified Responsible Soy assures a soy production that is socially equitable and economically feasible and environmentally sound. RTRS Certified Responsible Soy improves agricultural practices of producers, increases workers’ safety, contributes to nature and biodiversity preservation and assures proper payments and land rights.

What is the impact of complying to the RTRS Production Standard in the field of sustainability?

The conditions for the Certification Scheme are very demanding and strict on issues like soil quality, quality and supply of surface and ground water, production waste and on-farm biodiversity. Producers of RTRS Certified Responsible Soy take appropriate measures to minimize and mitigate any negative impacts. Expansion of soy cultivation may not take place on land cleared of native habitat, like the tropical rainforest. Producers are also encouraged to reduce emissions of green house gases (GHGs) and increase the sequestration of carbon on the farm.

What is the impact of RTRS Certified Responsible Soy on forest preservation?

In August 2014 the RTRS Certification Scheme was acknowledged by Banking Environment Initiative (BEI), the Retailers' Soy Group (RSG) and the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) because of its high contribution to fight deforestation and its role in the improvement of companies’ policies on soy sourcing.

Are responsible producers rewarded for their efforts to preserve biodiversity?

The RTRS believes soybean cultivation can be expanded responsibly, for example by using existing agricultural lands more efficiently than before. Farmers may need to make investments to do so. Therefore,  RTRS has created the mechanisms for them to be rewarded for their efforts, by negotiating a premium price with the buyers of their soy. At  the same time, RTRS works actively on the commitments of companies to RTRS Certified Responsible Soy. As such, RTRS Certified Responsible Soy can work as a mechanism through which global society can remunerate farmers, landowners and countries who make efforts to preserve the world’s most biodiversity-rich areas.

Does the RTRS Production Standard help reduce the use of toxic agrochemicals?

Yes, the RTRS Production Standard helps to work towards using fewer, and less toxic, agrochemicals and reducing their negative environmental and health impacts. Criteria in the Production Standard include measures that producers must take towards reducing the use of chemicals, towards using low-toxicity products, towards responsible disposal of containers and chemical residues, and towards systematically implementing well established Integrated Crop Management (ICM) techniques. Examples of criteria in the RTRS Production Standard include: has the producer banned the use of agrochemicals listed in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Rotterdam Convention for Prior-Informed Consent? Do workers have a good understanding of the health risks of the agrochemicals they handle? Do they use adequate protective equipment? Does the producer have a plan, with clear targets, to reduce the use of pesticides over time? Are all chemicals safely stored? Is all use properly documented?

Will RTRS Certification stop all use of banned pesticides?

The RTRS Production Standard excludes the use of all agrochemicals listed in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Rotterdam Convention. After careful deliberation of a Pesticide Use Working Group (PUWG), made up of stakeholders from different sectors involved in soy production and trading,  the decision was made to eliminate the use of Paraquat an Carbofuran by June 2017. The RTRS Production Standard was modified and the version 2.0 of the Production Standard includes this decision. During the phase out period, there needs to be a controlled use. Within the RTRS framework, national interpretations of the RTRS Production Standard can be used to add or amend criteria at the country level.