Soy has a bad reputation. Every year, thousands of acres of rainforest are cleared, genetically modified seeds are sowed and highly toxic pesticides are sprayed to meet the world’s demand on soy beans. An association from Austria is now fighting the problem with its own soy grown in the Danube Region:
In front of a typically Austrian village, little soy plants cover a field of 1.5 acres size. Ursula Bittner, association manager of Danube-Soya, checks their size and form. The plants are currently growing on a test field, as her association experiments with sowing time and pesticides. Soon, Danube-Soya wants to grow much more soy in Europe. “Soy is part of the European culture, just as potatoes or tomatoes”, she says. “We would not need to import as much, if we would grow more of them here. And we have perfect preconditions for that.”
The European Union produces circa one million tons of soy annually. That is not much compared to the 33 million it imports and much less compared to 240 million tons which are produced worldwide – especially in the US, Brazil and Argentina. Danube-Soya wants to increase the share of self grown soy in the EU. “We see a potential for about five million tons; especially in the Danube Region”, Bittner says. That is why executive director Matthias Krön founded the association: to establish a label: Danube-Soya, non- genetically modified and locally grown.
Even Austria is not free of genetically modified organisms (GMO) – contrary to what is publicly stated. Production, disposal and import of genetically modified food in Austria is forbidden since 1997. But that does not apply to animal feed. Almost 90 percent of Austria‘s soy for feeding is imported. About 75 percent of it is genetically modified. Through its label, Danube-Soy wants to give orientation for European consumers. To guarantee the product are non-GMO, processors like depots, compound feed producers and marketers are controlled by external inspection bodies. Farmers have to sign a declaration of self commitment, where they agree not to grow any sorts of genetically modified crops.
“Genetically modified soy is something which I just can lament but I just can not change it. It is everywhere, especially in animal feed.” Christian Rauffus is executive director of “Rügenwalder Mühle”, a German company known for sausage and ham products. In 2012, the company with about 400 employees had a turnover of about 170 million Euros. The use of genetically modified soy would be inevitable, Rauffus says in an interview with „Eat Smarter!“ (Nr3/2014). Alexander Hissting, spokesman of the association „Food without Genetic Engineering“ (VLOG) is of a different opinion: “There is already enough non-GMO soy to feed every cattle, every chicken and every pig in Germany“, he states on the associations website. At the interview with Smart Cities Consulting he says that there would be a growing trend concerning GMO-free soy: “Imcopa and Caramuru are big vendors of Non-GMO soy in Brazil, but also regular vendors like ADM sell Non-GMO soy.”
But the fight against genetically modified crops would be far from over: “Just now the poultry industry in Germany stated that they won‘t feed their hens with non-GMO feed anymore. That means a little crisis for us.“ On the other hand, grocers would become more interested in GMO-free products. That would be a positive sign. That non-GMO feed is more expensive than GMO is no argument for Hissting: “It is true that Non-GMO feed is more expensive. Every ton costs about 500 Euros instead of maybe 400, but if you allocate these costs to the consumers, they would be paying half a cent more for a liter of milk. Or say two cents more for meat. I think everybody is ready to pay that.”