Soy is one of the Earth's fastest growing crops, and its expansion is having a negative
impact on vital ecosystems
. Demand will only increase, so urgent action is needed - from
companies that use soy, governments and financial institutions, and from consumers.


Soy produces more protein per hectare than any other major crop. Three-quarters of soy is used to feed animals, mostly as soy meal. It's a key part of the supply chain for everything from sausages and chicken to cheese and eggs.

Soy can also be used as soy oil, in margarines or many baked and fried products, as well as in other consumer goods like soap and cosmetics. You'll find soy derivatives like the emulsifier lecithin in countless processed foods too, from chocolate to salad dressing.

Chicken farm
Young people eating barbeque

On average, European consumers eat 61kg of soy per year, mostly in the form of animal products like chicken, pork, beef and farmed fish as well as eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt.

Demand for soy skyrocketting


Global consumption of animal products has risen sharply in recent years - and so has the demand for soy. Irreplaceable ecosystems in South America, such as the Cerrado, Chaco, Atlantic Forest and Amazon, are being cleared to make way for soy plantations.

See the current and projected development of soybean and meat production: 1961 – 2020 opposite.

In half a century, the amount of soy produced has increased tenfold. Soy
farms now cover over 1 million square kilometres - equivalent to the total
area of France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands combined.
In South America, the area of land devoted to soy rose from 17 million hectares in 1990 to 46 million hectares in 2010, mainly on land converted from natural ecosystems and it continues to expand.


Click on the graph to expand

Growth in global soy area
Threathened wildlife in the cerrado due to soy farming



The destruction of these natural ecosystems has severe and far-reaching consequences.

Soy is grown in some of the most important areas for biodiversity on the planet. Species under threat include the jaguar, maned wolf and giant anteater, among many others. Habitat loss has led to sharp declines in biodiversity: between 1970 and 2010, vertebrate species populations in Latin America fell by 83 per cent, the steepest decline anywhere in the world, according to WWF's Living Planet Report. Deforestation is a major cause of climate change, and affects rainfall patterns and water supplies too.

Clearing forest for agriculture also threatens local and indigenous communities whose way of life depends on the forest and the resources it provides: evictions of indigenous communities to make way for soy production have been documented in Argentina and Paraguay.

In addition, soy production tends to use large quantities of agrochemicals, which can contaminate soils and water supplies, threatening people and nature's health. Other negative impacts include soil erosion, pest and disease outbreaks, and the loss of pollinators.

While soy is a highly profitable crop, not everybody shares the economic benefits. In the Americas, soy tends to be grown on an industrial scale: this can disadvantage smallholders and lead to a loss of rural jobs. Conflicts have arisen as more land becomes concentrated in fewer hands. Exploitative labour conditions have also been reported on soy farms.

If ever-growing global demand for soy is to be met without negative impacts on people and nature, then the soy industry needs to change. And that can’t just be up to the producers. Everyone needs to take responsibility.


The world’s appetite for soy shows little sign of slowing down. FAO projections suggest demand for soy could almost double by 2050 as the global population grows and diets change.

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Soy beans


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Analysis Paper

For more information on soy and its impacts, download the WWF Growth of Soy report