Lidl-ProTerra Non-GMO Incentive Program in Brazil: three years of successful cooperation

Market fluctuations make non-GMO sustainable soy sometimes short or long of supply in Europe, causing high volatility of premiums. When supply is plenty, premiums fall and cause farmers in Brazil to migrate to GMO soy farming.

In 2016, retailer Lidl[1], with the intention of supporting ProTerra’s vision and mission and the continued growth of non-GMO and sustainable soybean production in Brazil, created an Incentive Program, part of the “Lidl Soy Initiative”, to enhance the quantity and availability of certified and responsible Brazilian soy in the European Union.  The main goal was to motivate farmers to switch to sustainable, non-GMO production, compensating, the lack of premiums to growers who had been unable to sell their soy segregated under a market premium. The initiative included Lidl in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, contributing then to a gradual increase in the available amount of certified, more sustainable and GMO-free soy. With the soy certificates, the retailer  has offset its soy footprint for the production of pork and beef products in these three countries.

For joining the program, growers had to produce sustainable non-GMO soybeans, that was not commercialized under segregation and a market premium, to avoid double counting. Growers had also to abide by zero deforestation policy and supply all information required, including documentation, opening the farms to audits, area satellite surveillance, as well as responding to questionnaires.

ProTerra Foundation joined efforts with Instituto Soja Livre[2], ISL (Free Soya Institute) of Mato Grosso, Brazil, to reach out to growers who produced non-GMO soy in a sustainable manner that complied with ProTerra Standard. Most of the farms enrolled were ISL members.

Certification under ProTerra meant that farms had their agricultural operations under the principles summarized below:

Lidl-ProTerra Non-GMO Incentive Program in Brazil: three years of successful cooperation

This collaboration made it possible to increase the production of certified non-GMO sustainable soy and improve the living, environmental and working conditions of farmers. In three years, the total Non-GMO Soy amounted to 170,441 metric tons, and the area of farms, including agriculture and native vegetation, was all together 164,692 hectares:

  • 2016-17 02 farms – 40,441 metric tons of Non-GMO sustainable soy, total area of farms of 48,876.89 hectares.
  • 2017-18 14 farms – 65,000 metric tons of Non-GMO sustainable soy, total area of farms of 99,550 hectares.
  • 2018-19 13 farms – 65,000 metric tons of Non-GMO sustainable soy, total area of farms of 85,550 hectares.

Along three years, 21 farms were audited under ProTerra Standard V3 in various Brazilian regions. The audit reports were reviewed, growers were informed about non-conformities, if any, who submitted corrective action plans and evidence of implementation of corrective actions.

Audits were complemented by georeferenced systems using satellite imagery and public information available from the Brazilian Ministry of Labour, and Municipal, State and Federal Environmental Agencies.

Satellite images of Prodes/INPE[3] systems were used to verify zero deforestation after 2008 of all farms approved in the Program. Twenty-one farms signed a Non-Deforestation Declaration when joining the Program, representing a total area of about 160,000 thousand hectares, including native vegetation area and agricultural land. The native vegetation area of this group of farms is over 56,000 ha. Many of these farms had land use change 20 years ago or more, and the areas are consolidated, meaning that there are no plans for further land use change (LUC).

The general result of the Program is considered positive as it granted a premium to farmers to engage and continue good agricultural practices, that improve climate change policies to mitigate environmental impact, protect biodiversity and human health.  Furthermore, it stipulated that the feed should be delivered to Europe, resulting that more GMO-free and sustainable soy is available on the European market.

This is the first time a European Retailer granted an incentive premium directly to Brazilian farmers to promote change on the ground.