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Sainsbury’s Joins Misleading “Responsible” Soy Club – Customers let down

Immediate release (22 Mar 2011)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

Sainsbury’s decision to join other UK supermarkets on the Roundtable of Responsible Soy (RTRS) badly lets down their customers who are increasingly calling for honest and reliable information so they can choose more sustainable food, said GM Freeze today.

The chorus of international condemnation of the RTRS, of which GM Freeze has long been a part, has repeatedly told UK supermarkets the roundtable is an exercise in “greenwash” that cannot deliver meaningful protection for habitats, local people or small and family farmers from the dangers of massive soya monocultures in producer countries. [1] The organisation has identified a host of weaknesses in the RTRS standards, which aim to label as “responsible” the highly destructive expansion of soya plantations that displaces hundreds of family farmers and destroys fragile habitats like the Cerrado in Brazil, the Atlantic Forest systems of Paraguay and Uruguay and the Chaco forests of Argentina and Bolivia. [2]

The RTRS will also give a “responsible” label to GM Roundup Ready (RR) monocultures, well-known to be reliant on aerial spraying of Monsanto’s Roundup regardless of impacts on communities. GM soya drives plantation expansion in many countries in South America, much of which fuels Europe’s factory farms for meat production, despite the rapid development of weeds resistant to Roundup (glyphosate). The dependence on Roundup for weed control by soya farmers has resulted in noxious weeds, such as the highly invasive Johnsongrass, becoming a major problem in Argentina [3], and many other weed species in the region are also beginning to show resistance.

Combatting resistant weeds requires increased applications of mixed weed killers containing glyphosate, including products which were being phased out due to their toxicity, such as 2,4 D (an ingredient of Agent Orange), which has been linked to conditions such as non-Hodgkins lymphoma in farm workers [4] and is a potential hormone disruptor. [5]

Intensive RR soya production has also been linked to soil degradation, human rights violations and poor diets for rural communities. Courts in Argentina have recently issued bans on spraying near communities in two major soya-growing provinces. [6]

A GfK/NOP opinion survey carried out for GM Freeze and Friends of the Earth in 2010 showed 68% of people who shopped in Sainsbury’s said they would prefer to buy meat, milk, eggs and fish from animals reared on a non-GM diet. [7]

The RTRS standards lack transparency, traceability, rigour and enforcement provisions. [2] The Roundtable aims to launch its products onto the market in May, and consumers may well see the RTRS “responsible” label on shelves shortly afterwards. Sainsbury’s joins other UK supermarkets currently members of the RTRS (Marks and Spencer, Asda and Waitrose), alongside companies such as Monsanto, Bayer, Unilever, Cargill and Nestle. [8]

Commenting for GM Freeze, Pete Riley said:

Sainsbury’s decision to join the RTRS simply contradicts what their own customers want.

In addition the entire model of intensive GM soya production is under threat from the development of glyphosate resistant weeds. In the immediate future people and wildlife face an increase in toxic chemical being sprayed on these crops – hardly responsible!

UK shoppers want their supermarkets to deliver safe food, and they want honest information to help them shop more sustainably. The RTRS certification provides only a false guarantee, misleading consumers about what they are buying. Shoppers have been badly let down by Sainsbury’s, Asda and others, who seem happier to sign up to a process built on sand rather than supporting farming methods that enrich the planet rather than trashing it.



[1] See “Open Letter: Growing Opposition to Round Table on Responsible Soy”, June 2010, with full list of over 230 groups in over 30 countries here.

[2] See Thirteen Reasons Why the Roundtable On Responsible Soy Will Not Provide Responsible or Sustainable Soya Bean Production here.

[3] See Resistance is Growing: GM herbicide tolerant crops and resistance in weeds here.

[4] Zahm S.H.,et al., 1990. A case-control study of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) in eastern Nebraska . Epidemiology 1: 349-356.

[5] DHI Water and the Environment, 2007. Study for enhancing the endocrine disruptor priority list with a focus on low production volume chemicals. ENV.D.4./ETU/2005/0028r