Net soya meal imports into EU grew 57.1 percent since WTO trade rules entered force
BRUSSELS – Decades of trade rules that dismantled or restructured farm safety net programs in the EU have displaced sustainable, domestic feed grain production and escalated dangerous soya imports from Latin America—a trend that has helped turn European farms into polluting factory farms while driving down food quality, according to a new report from consumer organization Food & Water Europe.
The report, The Perils of the Global Soy Trade, will be released today at an event at the European parliament attended by MEPs and consumer groups. It shows that the 15 European Union member states’ (EU-15) net soy meal imports grew 57.1 percent since global WTO trade rules entered force, from 12.9 million metric tonnes in 1995 to 20.2 metric tonnes in 2007.
“Through its acquiescence to industrial agriculture interests in trade deals, the EU has imported U.S. worst practices when it comes to factory farming—including an increasing reliance on genetically engineered soy-based feed,” says Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Europe. “The CAP and the trade rules have made it difficult to raise livestock sustainably in Europe, which is now seeing the same trend towards consolidation that has already taken place in America.”
Other findings in the report show how EU factory farm demand for cheap feed exports environmental damage and drives down food quality:
- Between 1995 and 2007, the EU-15 shed 1.7 million farms—nearly a quarter of all farms.
- The number of chickens on EU-15 farms rose 10 percent from 923 million in 1995 to 1 billion in 2008; the EU added nearly 3 million pigs between 2004 and 2006;
- In 2009, Brazil and Argentina were the second- and third-largest cultivators of GM crops, growing 42.7 million hectares of GM soybeans, maize and cotton combined.
- Soy cultivation in Uruguay has surged over fifteen-fold in less than two decades.
- Between 1996 and 2008, applications of herbicide glyphosate (sold by Monsanto as Roundup), which is used to combat weeds on GM soy plantations, surged fourteen-fold in Argentina due to rampant weed resistance.
- Brazil cleared 3.1 million hectares of forest annually between 2000 and 2005—an area larger than Belgium each year—deforestation that can be attributed to added land pressures from industrial monocultures, especially soybeans.
- The dietary shift towards cheaper meat products have affected Europe’s waistlines: the obesity rate in the UK more than tripled between 1980 and 2007, France’s nearly doubled between 1990 and 2006, and almost half (49.6 percent) of Germany’s population was obese or overweight in 2005.
“Intensive farming in the EU is provoking South America to mass produce soy,” says Kartika Tamara Liotard, Member of European Parliament. “Large food companies in South America are indeed using vast amounts of land to grow corn and soybeans, merely to enable us to feed our livestock. Since the majority of these crops are genetically modified, our livestock end up eating controversial GMO food. Furthermore, mass cultivation is also responsible for the deforestation, not to mention the displacement of local South Americans. It would be much better if the local population could produce and consume its own crops instead of feeding European cattle with it.”
“European farmers can grow the protein plants that Europe needs,” says Gérard Choplin from European Coordination Via Campesina. “Rotating these protein crops and maintaining permanent pastures should be required in all places where it is feasible. This will benefit soil fertility, biodiversity and biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions by storing it in the soil.”
“It is high time Europe found better ways to feed and raise livestock,” says Hauter. “The international grain and oilseeds industry has gone to great lengths to convince European livestock farmers that they cannot survive without cheap imported feed. The truth is, most cannot survive even with it—and those that survive are more vulnerable to price shocks. And as the multinational food conglomerates concentrate their control over our food chain, jobs are lost and private profits soar.”
The Food & Water Europe report recommends policies that will help European farmers wean themselves off of imported soy. These include removal of the soya concessions in the Blair House agreement under WTO rules, and additional support for farmers under the European Common Agricultural Policy so that they can return to producing more sustainable domestic sources of protein for animal feed and the local food from responsible farms that Europeans want.
Food & Water Europe is a program of Food & Water Watch, Inc., a non-profit consumer NGO based in Washington, D.C., working to ensure clean water and safe food in Europe and around the world. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.