Shifting the debate about ‘responsible soy’ production in Paraguay
17 May 2013 | LDPI Working Paper No. 23
by Laureen Elgert
Certification initiatives are an increasingly prominent means of quelling public concern about the wider socio‐political, economic and environmental consequences of commodity production (timber, palm oil, soy) on increasingly concentrated land holdings in countries characterized by large, poor, rural populations. This paper examines the ways in which the discourse of sustainable soy production – created and mobilized through the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) certification initiative – enables the coalescence of diverse justifications for land‐grabbing in South American producer countries with particular attention to Paraguay. Using data and information from fieldwork, academic literature, online media, the 2008 Paraguayan agricultural census, and the UNDP development report, five such justifications are presented here and critically assessed. They are: reduced deforestation; improved agricultural practices; national economic growth; food security; and standards development processes that feature inclusive politics. The paper concludes that such claims leave out important dimensions of the growth of the soy industry and the concomitant concentration of land holdings in Paraguay. Any hope for equity and justice will depend on a radical shift in sustainable development policy; one that highlights the distribution of land and resources.
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