Soy is one of the major crops of the world, used not only for human food but for oil, animal feed, cosmetics and biofuels as well. Soy is also a crop that has historically been associated with negative social and environmental issues: agrochemical runoff, water pollution, unsafe working conditions, land concentration and the conversion of some of the most species-rich lands in the world, leading to serious deforestation.
The world is projected to consume 70 to 80 million metric tons of additional soybeans annually over the next 10 years. This is partly linked to 80% of the world’s soy production being fed to livestock – primarily cows, pigs and chickens. It is also being used in 60% of processed food, including cereals, biscuits, cheeses, cakes, noodles, pastries, soups and spreads. Meanwhile, India and China’s consumption of soy oil and soy meal is increasing rapidly, with China being the world’s largest soy importer.
That means the world, in a decade, must produce an additional amount of soybeans equivalent to the current production of Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay combined. A lot of that will likely come through higher yields, but some will also need to come from additional land planted to soybeans. The United States, Brazil, and Argentina together produce about 80% of the world’s soy today.
There have been various initiatives in the past for reducing the rise in global consumption, and minimising the deforestation impact of soy. A global sector initiative, however, has been lacking. The objective of our work is to ensure that soy is sustainably sourced. This can be achieved through greater transparency in land-use planning processes, better production practices and through the promotion of responsible purchasing and investment policies.