Soy production is one of the main drivers of nature destruction in Latin America and is predominantly used for animal feed in Europe.
Europeans are unwittingly wiping out forests across the world. According to new research, the average European consumes 60.6 kg of soy per year, the majority of which can be linked to deforested areas and converted savannahs and grasslands in South America. This means that contributing to the destruction of precious natural ecosystems is always just one meal away.
Commissioned by WWF , the new research titled “Mapping the European Soy Supply Chain” shows 90% of the soy Europeans eat is not listed as an ingredient. Instead, it is consumed indirectly as soy is the main animal feed used to produce meat, eggs, fish and dairy products.
In 2020, the average European consumed 237 eggs, 117 kg of various dairy products, 58 kg of pork, poultry, beef and other meat, and 2 kg of farmed fish. In some cases, such as for chicken and salmon, the amount of soy animal feed is almost equal to that of the food produced. 95 grams of soy are needed to produce 100 grams of farmed salmon, and 96 grams of soy for 100 grams of chicken breast. More examples are available in WWF’s virtual ‘hidden soy’ fridge.
“We need to open our eyes to the impact that the European Union and its consumption have not only on forests but also on grasslands and savannahs - we cannot support the destruction of invaluable nature or peoples livelihoods for our dinner”, adds Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer at WWF's European Policy Office.
EU decision-makers are currently discussing an EU deforestation law to curb the footprint on EU consumption.
Presented last November, the European Commission’s legislative proposal contains many strong elements. However, it would limit the scope of the new law to forests, postponing a potential inclusion of other ecosystems by at least two years. As a result, the existing pressure of agricultural production on savannahs and grasslands is ignored and there is a risk that new expansion of soy production will be shifted from forests to these other ecosystems.
EU Member States are currently discussing their position on the new law, with an orientation debate between environment ministers scheduled to take place on 17 March.
“To ensure that our daily food is nature destruction-free, the law needs to cover, from the start, other natural ecosystems, too. So, it is now crucial that we, as citizens, urge our governments to stand up for nature and support a strong, loophole-free law! One that includes all the important habitats at stake,” concludes Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer at WWF's European Policy Office.
What’s at stake?
We have lost 68% of wildlife in the past 50 years, much of this due to the way we produce our food. Globally, soy production has more than doubled over the last two decades, and is expected to continue to increase. The majority of the soy used in Europe comes from South America, which is also home to the Amazon, the Pantanal and the Cerrado, making it a biodiversity hotspot.1,600 species of mammals, birds and reptiles have been identified just in the Cerrado. Among these are familiar animals such as macaws, anteaters, armadillos and jaguars, all threatened with extinction.
WWF has long advocated for EU legislation on deforestation. Through the #Together4Forests campaign, WWF and 160 other environmental NGOs mobilised 1.2 million people to demand a strong new EU law in December 2020. Following this, the Commission proposed a Regulation to mimimise EU-driven deforestation and forest degradation. However, the battle is not won yet as important ecosystems such as savannahs, grasslands and peatlands are left unprotected by the European Commission’s proposal.