Responsible soy bean production
For several South American countries, soy is an important economic factor that is increasing in significance. On the downside, however, large areas of rainforest are being cleared to meet the rising demand for soy, which is why we have been committed to supporting responsible soy bean production since 2004.
Global demand for soy is rising, partly due to a steady increase in meat consumption in developing and emerging countries in particular, and partly because soy is becoming an increasingly important component of human nutrition. Consequently, large areas of tropical forest in Brazil and Paraguay are being destroyed. In addition to this, soy bean producers are converting ecologically valuable savannah areas into soy bean fields – resulting in a great loss of flora and fauna.
In order to halt this negative development, Coop and WWF Switzerland joined forces in 2004 to develop the Basel Criteria for Responsible Soy Production. These criteria demand:
- Non-GMO seeds
- Sparing use of fertilizers and pesticides
- No clearing of valuable forest for soy plantations
- Minimum social standards for workers and the local population
For our own-label brands we generally rely on soy from Europe for tofu, soy milk and edamame. Wherever possible we prefer soy from Switzerland.
RTRS: working together for more sustainable soy
In 2006, we were a founding member of the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS). This international network consists of environmental organizations and NGOs, producers and mill operators, and also launched a list of criteria for responsible soy cultivation. In 2010, we succeeded together with other organizations in adding a voluntary supplement regarding non-GMO soy to the RTRS criteria. We allow only non-genetically modified soy to be used and fed to animals.
The Swiss Network for Sustainable Soy sets the industry standard
For cost reasons it was not previously possible to market sustainable soy separately in Switzerland. An industry solution was required, and we were actively involved in drafting it. In 2011 we were a founding member of the Swiss Network for Sustainable Soy (soy network). In addition to Swiss feed importers, the members of this network include all key representatives of animal feed in the production chain. This goal has now been reached, and the new industry standard we helped create has become recognized and established. Today 93% of soy feed imported into Switzerland meets the defined guiding standards – i.e. the Basel Criteria, RTRS, Pro Terra, Bio Suisse, Europe Soya and Danube Soya.
Non-GMO soy from Europe
The Danuba Soya Association promotes the sustainable and non-GMO production of soy in the Danube region and has developed a corresponding standard. The region is ideal in terms of climate and topography for growing high-quality soy. However, there was also considerable interest in producing soy outside the Danube region in line with the Danube Soya Standard. The Danuba Soya Association therefore set up the Europe Soya Standard at the end of 2015.
As a member of the association we support this development. We use only non-GMO and accordingly certified soy from Europe in feed for our Naturafarm laying hens and chickens. In this way we are making an active contribution towards ensuring that no South American rainforests are cut down to make way for soy monocultures. The proximity to Switzerland also means shorter transport routes.
Promotion of Swiss organic soy for tofu, etc.
For our organic soy products we give preference to organic soy from Switzerland. We thus invest in short transport routes, non-GMO soy farming, and a partnership with Swiss organic farmers. In order to expand domestic farming and to provide consumers with more high-quality organic soy products grown in Switzerland, we are implementing the «Organic food soy from Switzerland» project together with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). The entire value chain is included, starting with cultivation, variety testing, seed propagation through to product development.
Reduction of soy in feed
Even if we are doing a lot to make soy production more sustainable, soy is still a critical raw material for us. We therefore strive to avoid soy wherever possible. One example is our Natura Beef: the young cattle are reared with their mothers for as long as possible. The Natura Beef cows drink their mothers' milk and eat fresh grass and hay. Soy is explicitly forbidden. Natura Beef accounts for around 60% of the beef we sell.