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Government to introduce new regulation to ensure soya imports do not harm forests

13th Dec 2023 / By Alistair Driver

The Government is to introduce new legislation aimed at ensuring various products imported into the UK, including soya, do not harm the world’s forests.  

soyaOn Saturday, at the COP28 Nature Day, the government set out how new legislation in the Environment Act will regulate four ‘critical forest-risk commodities’, initially soy, palm oil, cocoa and relevant cattle products (excluding dairy).

The law will remove these commodities, where they have been produced on land illegally occupied or used, from UK supply chains. The secondary legislation which will be laid as soon as parliamentary time allows.

It will regulate all relevant UK supply chain organisations with a global annual turnover of over £50 million, allowing exemptions for organisations that use 500 tonnes or less of each regulated commodity in the reporting period. The legislation will give industry organisations a grace period to prepare for regulation. 

These businesses will also be required to undertake a due diligence exercise on their supply chains and to report on this exercise annually for transparency.   

The regulator will work in close partnership with other agencies and Devolved Administrations, with the power to impose fines on organisations found to be in breach of the regulation.  

Defra said the move will protect the habitats of some of the world’s most precious and endangered species, including tigers and leopards, while giving British shoppers assurance that the goods they buy are not contributing to deforestation that violates the laws and regulations of the countries where they come from.

The biggest driver of deforestation is agricultural expansion, with an area the size of the UK ploughed up each year to meet UK demand for commodities, Defra said.

The legislation marks a step change from voluntary approaches already in place, protecting the future of the world’s forests that we need to help tackle climate change, and their wildlife-rich canopies.

Defra Secretary Steve Barclay said: “I find it heart-rending to see the way illegal deforestation is destroying the habitats of tigers, jaguars, orangutans and many other endangered species, and I know many people across the world feel the same. Globally, we lose forests equivalent to the size of about 30 football pitches every minute.

“It’s why we are cleaning up supply chains to make sure that big businesses in the UK aren’t responsible for illegal deforestation. It also means shoppers can be confident that the money they spend is part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.”

NPA reaction

The NPA is already part of voluntary industry-wide UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya and is supporting the UK Soy Manifesto, which commits signatories to cutting deforestation and habitat destruction out of UK soy supply chains by 2025.

NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson said: “The pig sector has made significant strides to cut soya use, partly by using more alternative proteins, and to ensure that where soya is used, it comes from sustainable de-forestation free sources.

“This announcement highlights how important this cross-supply chain work is and the increasing focus on responsible sourcing of protein for our pig feed.”

"The legislation needs to align with EUDR (EU Deforestation Regulation) as much as possible to provide a little certainty and clarity to businesses operating both in the UK and the EU. This will ensure the transition to sustainably sourced soya is more timely and deliverable."