How can we meet rising demand for soy without contributing to deforestation and habitat loss?

All indications are that demand for soy will continue to rise well into this century. But carrying on with business as usual will mean further loss of natural environments, leading to huge and irreversible losses of biodiversity. Increased carbon emissions will exacerbate the already formidable challenges of climate change. But solutions exist that will allow us to meet the need for soy and other agricultural commodities while conserving biodiversity and crucial ecosystems.

Reducing Consumption & Waste+
Reducing waste and eating fewer animal products could keep soy demand in check. If developed nations adopted a healthy, balanced diet with animal protein consumption in line with nutritionists’ recommendations there would be less of a demand for soy and potentially a a reduction in the pressure on natural ecosystems.
Consumer Country Responses+
The Netherlands is aiming for 100 % of soy for the Dutch market to be certified to RTRS standards, or equivalent, by 2015. Similar initiatives exist or are under way in other European countries. Public procurement policies that favour responsibly produced soy could be another important tool.
Market Responses+
Private companies have begun to take steps to reduce the environmental impact of soy. Responses include individual and collective pledges to avoid deforestation, such as the Soy Moratorium in the Brazilian Amazon, and voluntary certification schemes developed in collaboration with civil society organizations, such as the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS).
Producer country legislation+
Policies to conserve forests and native vegetation have the potential to contain the irresponsible expansion of soy and other agricultural production – though in some cases, these policies have merely displaced problems to other areas. Legislation is needed to support conservation inside and outside protected areas, including on farms and other privately owned land.
Land-use Planning+
WWF wants to see all countries introduce transparent, systematic planning processes for balancing different land uses with conservation of natural environments.
Better Management Practices (BMPs)+
Better management practices (BMPs): BMPs can help farmers improve soil health and productivity, reduce the use of inputs such as agrochemicals and water, and mitigate negative environmental impacts, even in areas where yields are low. Yield increase in one area can contribute to less expansion in others. Similarly, increasing livestock productivity in areas of very low intensity grazing could free up land for soy cultivation.
Payments for environmental services (PES)+
Converting forests to soy is usually more profitable in the short term than conserving them. PES schemes can help to balance this by rewarding those who conserve natural ecosystems and the services they provide. Climate finance mechanisms such as REDD+ and carbon markets also offer incentives for conserving and restoring natural vegetation.
Responsible investment+
Financial markets can help to shape the future of the soy industry by diverting capital away from projects that threaten natural ecosystems toward sustainable production. Increasingly, banks are providing better terms for clients that meet credible certification standards, such as those of the RTRS.
Growth of Soy Report

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This farm in Paraná, Brazil, uses no-till cultivation, which can improve soil quality and carbon levels. © Solidaridad

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