Topic: Reconfiguring European soy systems. Dynamics, multiple effects, and long-term visions
Keywords: Soybeans, European agriculture, reconfiguration
Less than a decade ago, the vision for a Europe less dependent on soy supplies from other continents brought about not only plans to upscale soy production in Europe but also the realization that raising the level of soy self-sufficiency in Europe is intimately connected with and strongly dependent upon having a more encompassing plan for plant proteins for Europe.
A central actor that came to make visible this interdependence is the non-profit transnational European organisation DonauSoya (DS). DS frames European soybeans both as a target in itself and as a tool for wider-reaching transformation in European agricultural systems. In this sense, DS designed a standard, a certification and a labelling system to attest the European origin and non-gmo quality of soybeans and pursued, at the same time, a series of measures at the level of the European Union aimed to birth policies in favour of protein plants.
The multiple meanings and socio-material attributes of soy markedly shape the forms of governance used to intervene in European agricultural systems, by prompting actors to experiment with instruments ready at hand. This led to innovation at the level of standard-making, at the level of the implementation of the certification, and certainly also in respect to the actors assembled. The results were not just adjustments at the level of agricultural practices, the value chain, and consumer patterns but also the reconfiguration of certain practices, such as seed breeding, crop rotation, livestock feeding, meat eating, and nongmo-labelling. These multiple emergent reconfigurations mobilize new understandings of what actually counts as sustainable soy and, at the same, time also shift the gravity points of accountability and responsibility away from producers and end consumers towards mid-chain consumption and processors, and, counterintuitively, away from soy consumption and more towards meat consumption and production