The French government has the opportunity to support private sector actors to create real impact, providing an example for the rest of Europe to follow.
The French market is now at a tipping point regarding imported commodities linked with deforestation, especially soy. As a rich source of protein, soy is a big part of many people’s diets. Aside from its popularity with consumers, the meat and dairy industry has become reliant on soya beans for animal feed. However, the drive to produce more cut-price meat and dairy is destroying forests and carbon-rich ecosystems, especially in South America - across savannahs like the Cerrado in Brazil, for example.
Having worked more on soy in France over the last two years, Earthworm Foundation has witnessed an unprecedented level of cooperation among organisations, syndicates and civil society to bring change to the market. This change has been fostered by the Stratégie Nationale De Lutte Contre la Déforestation Importée (SNDI), put in place by the government to end the import of products associated with deforestation. It has resulted in some very bold moves from the private sector.
For example, Lidl is working on its whole supply chain. It wants to support its suppliers towards more transparency and to substitute imported soy with locally sourced proteins. This is part of a collective move towards a robust yet practical approach for soy production.
For instance, we see retailers in France working to understand their supply chain in detail, embracing the fact that change will come through strong cooperation with every node of the supply chain. We also see a better understanding of the issues on the ground and a call for impactful and scalable solutions. In particular, this has led to more engagement to avoid soya coming from potential deforested and converted areas.
Now, it is time for the French government to support this unprecedented move from the private sector, in collaboration with civil society. We also believe there is an opportunity for French agriculture and feed manufacturers to develop alternative supply chains, with farmers growing proteins locally. This relocalisation and redevelopment of protein supply chains is something that the government can drive by supporting alternative locally-grown legume crops. Developing other sources, in areas without deforestation risk, is also an option to leverage change.
Earthworm Foundation is proud to have been working in soy to change practices. We remain hopeful of further positive change. We whole-heartedly encourage the government to provide its support, which can be the catalyst for other countries to follow suit and create a more sustainable soy supply chain. Only then can we start to see real change.