How does soya effect the environment?
This post is part three of a four part series. You can find the introduction (part one) here and part two here. After hearing many different comments about soya so I asked Sagar Kirit Shah to write an article about the pros and conns of soya.
So over to Sagar Kirit Shah.
The concerns about soya production
With soya beans linked to the GM industry and deforestation, it is not surprising that many are concerned about the environmental effects of the soya bean.
What we need to know about soya produce
When thinking about the environmental consequences of soya production, it is important to bear some things in mind.
First, a vast majority of the world’s soya beans are grown to produce high-protein animal feed, and not to feed humans directly.
Second, soya is one of the most efficient plant foods when it comes to land and water use. One square metre of land can produce 40gm of soya protein, compared 29gm of rice protein, 24gm of maize protein, 22gm of protein of other legumes and 15gm of wheat protein. This means that if soya were to be replaced with other crops, it is likely that amount of arable land required to support the human population (and its consumption patterns) would actually go up, increasing pressure to cut down rainforests.
Third, living in the UK, we have considerable choice when it comes to the soya products we choose – and we also benefit from legal protections when it comes to genetically modified foods. It is relatively easy to obtain non-GM soya products (soya milk, tofu) made using soya beans from sustainable plantations.
This means we can choose to eat/use soya products which don’t destroy rainforests.
Conclusion - does soya have a negative impact on the environment?
Taken together, I think these three points mean that it is possible for green-leaning individuals to consume soya without feeling guilty about the impact their food choices have on the environment.
"Forests … are in fact the world’s air-conditioning system—the very lungs of the planet—and help to store the largest body of freshwater on the planet … essential to produce food for our planet’s growing population. The rainforests of the world also provide the livelihoods of more than a billion of the poorest people on this Earth… In simple terms, the rainforests, which encircle the world, are our very life-support system—and we are on the verge of switching it off."
- Prince Charles