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World Wildlife Fund: Loyal Ally of Corporate Agribusiness and Monsanto

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) seems to have become a sort of environmental secretariat for agribusiness companies, as it is playing an increasingly dubious role in greenwashing the operations of global agribusiness.  

WWF is leading Round Tables on the so-called "sustainable" production of some of the most damaging global agricultural monocultures. The most controversial case is the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS),[1] which includes corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, Bunge and ADM among its members. The RTRS has approved GM soy as sustainable according to their own criteria. A mega-greenwashing operation is underway to cover up the environmental and social destruction caused by soy production in South America; impacts include deforestation, environmental pollution and poisoning of people. WWF has also ignored numerous accounts of Human Rights violations, perpetrated by agribusinesses in order to preserve High Conservation Value Areas (HCVA). WWF has integrated itself in the main lobby groups of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to promote the privatization of the world's remaining forests and to encourage the role of meaningless environmental certification.

The soy producers' demand to be compensated for producing 'responsible' soy became clear at the fourth RTRS Conference in May 2009. At the same time, however, it is unclear who will be willing to pay a premium price for this product on the world market. Therefore, during the final speech of the event, WWF proposed to open compensatory mechanisms and carbon markets for soy agribusiness.

The speech was given by Jason Clay, Director of WWF's marketing department and the WWF-US Vice President. Clay is an enthusiast of market-based mechanisms to tackle environmental problems and a fervent promoter of agrofuels. He views the carbon market as an opportunity for agribusiness. In the climate negotiations, Clay promotes the inclusion of RTRS-certified soy through two possible financial mechanisms: the REDD[2] mechanisms, which make it possible for soy producers to potentially be rewarded for maintaining a certain area of their land in forest, or access to carbon credits for agricultural practices that could be considered to be "carbon-conserving".

In June 2009, in a press release from the Round Table for Responsible Soy, Jason Clay said:

"The challenge now is to find mechanisms to reward producers who protect forest and soil by allowing them to sell carbon alongside with their soy. This is a win-win-win situation. Forest and soil are protected, producers have an additional source of income and retailers and brands can now buy responsible soy as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. Preliminary calculations suggest that producers in forest areas can net more income selling carbon than soy. This fundamentally change soy and makes it a new kind of commodity."[3]

A recent report from Utrecht University reveals that the operation is to obtain carbon credits for soy. According to Clay this is the way to preserve the viability of the RTRS. He maintains that at present, there are neither large incentives nor direct benefits for agribusiness to meet the RTRS criteria. The main producers are not willing to improve their practices unless they obtain a substantial economic reward. For consumers, soy production remains an invisible process, whereas for producers it represents big markets and earnings. From the economic perspective, the RTRS is at a breaking point because corporations are not seriously committed to sustainability, in other words they are not willing to pay for it. At present, soy agribusiness is not really interested in the RTRS since they have realized that there are currently no media campaigns that could affect the market. For this reason APROSOJA, one of the main Brazilian soy producers platform, abandoned the RTRS at its fourth
conference.[4][5]

The concrete proposal from WWF is for the RTRS to support soy producers to gain access to international carbon credit markets according to the area of preserved forest. This would mean soy could be sold alongside carbon credits at an average of 5-10 US dollars per ton.[6] In the North, companies could continue buying soy while reducing their need for pollution permits.


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