The message behind soy — according to the World Wildlife Foundation — is dire:
“Behind beef, soy is the second largest agricultural driver of deforestation worldwide. From the Northern Great Plains of the U.S. to the Amazon of Brazil, forests, grasslands, and wetlands are being plowed up to make room for more soy production. “
The WWF explains the consequences:
“As these ecosystems are lost, so are the wildlife they support and the vital ecological services they provide, like clean water, carbon sequestration and healthy soils. Species that are threatened include the jaguar, maned wolf and giant anteater, but also many other plants and animals that are unique to the Cerrado and Chaco.” *
Behind this backdrop, it’s not surprising that environmentally conscious consumers are wary of eating soy. And it’s not surprising that many popular plant-based brands tend to outright disavow it.
But this is really unfortunate.
It turns the issue isn’t soy itself, but rather what’s driving its growth. And the answer to that is, and has been for a long time, meat production.
The USDA estimates that over 70% of American soy is used for animal feed. **
Worldwide, that number is 75%. ***
Meat demand is driving soy production. Not tofu blocks. Not Monsanto. Not that tiny trace of soybean oil in your granola bar.
Meat consumption is driving deforestation, the destruction of the Cerrado, the Brazilian rainforest, and mangrove ecosystems in Southeast Asia.
Our diets, and specifically the meat we choose to eat, is driving climate change.
The problem is not and never has been soy.
The situation is really sad. Not only is soy one of the most nutritionally dense plant proteins in existence, containing high amounts of all 9 essential amino acids, it has been shown to reduce risk of prostate cancer in men, lower rates of breast cancer in women, and maybe even reduce the risk of heart disease (if eaten in place of high-risk red and processed meats). ****
Yet, this miracle food has become so vilified that the very companies that would benefit most from using it — plant-based meat producers — are the main ones penalized for doing so.
Purchase soy. Don’t feel bad for it. Just please, eat less meat.