Hard-hitting campaign targets use of soy in poultry
Retailers must help create a market for local protein crops and make UK farmers less dependent on imported soybeans, according to the Soil Association.
The organic promotion body has launched a campaign targeting soy produced on deforested land in Brazil, using pesticides banned in Britain.
However, although the message supports British agriculture, the hard-hitting headline of the campaign – Stop Poisoned Poultry – focuses on the UK broiler sector.
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The sector is the main agricultural user of soya and the campaign highlights the 1 million tonnes imported to feed broilers in the UK every year.
The Soil Association said rising global demand for soybeans has prompted Brazil to increase its soybean production, increasing the need for chemical crop controls.
Since 1990, the use of pesticides has increased by 900% in Brazil, with almost two-thirds applied to soybeans, the organization added.
These pesticides are often not authorized for use in the UK due to their risks to the environment and humans, with 70,000 poisonings in Brazil each year.
Farmers are not guilty
Despite the dramatic title of the campaign, Soil Association campaigns adviser Cathy Cliff said British poultry farming was not to blame.
The poisonings are not the fault of UK farmers and soya was a nutritionally sound choice, Ms Cliff said.
“Our farmers should be able to buy food that does not harm biodiversity and communities. Now is the time to invest in UK protein crops and reduce our reliance on imported soybeans.
“Enabling our farmers to source animal feed closer to home will not only create a more resilient agricultural sector, but will protect nature and the climate,” said Ms Cliff.
And, growing more pulse crops here would also help reduce reliance on artificial fertilizers and improve soil health, she said.
The Soil Association has launched a petition alongside the campaign, calling on retailers to phase out hazardous pesticides from their soy supply chain by 2030.
The organization is also asking retailers to commit to developing alternative foods, with the aim of reducing the use of soy in rations from 20% to 10% by 2030.
wide of the mark
But the head of the Confederation of Agricultural Industries’ feed sector, James McCulloch, said some of the Soil Association’s claims were far from the truth.
The UK sources sustainably grown soybeans from countries like Canada and the US, McCulloch pointed out. When imported from Latin America, the soy comes from farms certified under the soy moratorium in the Amazon.
The certification systems used also include standards for good environmental and agricultural practices, he added.
‘This soy has a premium to reward growers, so the UK is already directly promoting best practice,’ Mr McCulloch suggested.
As an added safety measure, all materials going into animal feed are tested and must meet strict requirements for minimum pesticide residue limits, he said.
This acts as an additional barrier to the supply of animal feed that has been produced to lower standards.