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Feedlot Meat Has Spurred a Soy Boom That Has a Devastating Environmental and Human Cost

South America is being taken over by a handful of companies in the soy business that are destroying ecologically sensitive areas and pushing people from their ancestral land.

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With a cheap source of imported feed, Europe has seen an increase in so-called factory farms, particularly for pork and chicken. (Since the early 1990s, as the EU increased its imports, the price of soy has gradually fallen, although right now prices are sky-high.) For example, notes Food and Water Watch, in 2007, the largest 1 percent of farms produced 74 million pigs, half of all pigs in the EU. The concentration of livestock production on enormous farms leads to environmental degradation. And the increase in cheap meat, often sold through fast food chains, does not help the health of European consumers much either.

Food and Water Watch provides a number of policy recommendations to reverse the trend of increased soy production in South America and consumption in Europe. First, it recommends, agriculture should be removed from the WTO and other EU trade deals. FWW also calls out the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) and the Round Table on Sustainable Consumptions as "industry efforts to greenwash the environmental harm of global, industrial agriculture," and calls on governments to end both direct and indirect support for these campaigns.

Perhaps most simply and importantly, Food and Water Watch urges governments to uphold the law, force companies to pay taxes, and abide by animal welfare and environmental regulations. Additionally, it calls on EU governments to "enforce laws that prohibit monopoly power and economic collusion and prohibit anticompetitive practices" by supermarkets and grain traders. The EU, for its part, seems to be headed in the other direction: it has recently loosened its prohibitions on genetically engineered feed.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. .

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