By Elisabeth Erickson-Noe, member
Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association
The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) has an agenda all too familiar to U.S. ranchers. The environmental group, World Wildlife Fund (WWF aka World Wide Fund for Nature), seeks to fundamentally change the entire beef industry through the GRSB. WWF’s website states that they are a founding member of the GRSB and are “actively involved in the newly established U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef as well as related pilot projects to develop key sustainability indicators and methods to verify sustainable beef.” Their goal is to transform the beef supply chain by influencing the “companies [which] control twenty- five percent of all fifteen of the most significant commodities that threaten biodiversity” (Clay, 2010). The WWF claims beef and biofuels are two of these threatening commodities. (Clay, 2010).
A 2012 WWF press release listed GRSB founding members as “AllFlex, Cargill, Elanco, Grupo de Trabalho da Pecuaria Sustentavel (GTPS), JBS, McDonald’s, Merck Animal Health, National Wildlife Federation, Rainforest Alliance, Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Australia, Solidaridad, The Nature Conservancy, Walmart and World Wildlife Fund.” The 2014 UN’s Climate Summit Agriculture Action One-Year Report recognized McDonald’s commitment to “holistically transform the entire beef value chain”. In 2015, the WWF listed Cargill and McDonald’s as two of their largest corporate partners.
In a 2011 BEEF Issues Quarterly interview, WWF Senior V.P. of Markets, Jason Clay stated: “We’ve come to a time where a farmer or rancher can’t simply . . . point to their own performance and show how good they are and expect to somehow avoid the ire of people who look at the whole system.” Clay classified producers at the “top” as those belonging to beef organizations. “I think NGOs and producers working together can figure out how to move the top . . . [while] government’s role is probably to move the bottom . . . And that’s where regulation has to come in.” Clay continued, “Many people have a vested interest in beef, whether they’re the customers of particular companies, whether they’re civil society more broadly, whether it’s researchers, government officials, NGOs. I think all of them have a role to play. But this transition won’t occur in a vacuum and it won’t just be shaped by ranchers. In fact the question that I would say is before us all, is will it even be mostly shaped by ranchers?”
At TED Global 2010, Clay addressed whether producers should have to provide proof of sustainable production in order to sell beef to suppliers and whether sustainability is a pre-competitive issue. In 2014, Clay wrote, “Simply put, sustainability is a pre- competitive issue.” (WWF, Fall 2014). In 2010, Clay said, “If sustainability is a pre- competitive issue, then we need collusion to address it.” (Clay, 2010, 8:30). Collusion? Webster’s Dictionary provides a single definition for collusion: a “secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.”
Clay speculated that, “we can actually impact 40-50% of global [beef] production by working with a carefully selected group.” (Clay, 2010). A conclusion reached after he observed the failure of the organic movement to transition all of agricultural to organic production. He felt they had relied on a group too large to adequately “inform” – 6.9 billion consumers. Clay estimated they could impact the entire beef supply chain by focusing on the smallest group, packers and retailers. “If we change those companies [that control 70 of trade for the 15 identified commodities] and the way they do business, then the rest will happen automatically.” As for any companies that didn’t agree to participate, they would “twist arms” and “use whatever leverage we have available to bring them to the table.” (Clay, 2010). In Brazil, the Nature Conservancy (TNC) is also working towards transformation. “A victory here could ignite global change in beef production.” TNC’s theory involves developing a sustainable livestock plan while utilizing their “expertise in satellite imagery mapping systems to help the government monitor land use and Forest Code compliance . . . [TNC] is working with Wal-Mart in Brazil to buy meat from Marfrig, who only buys from deforestation-free ranches.” (TNC, n.d.).
The real threat to sustainability for American ranchers is excessive government regulation under the Endangered Species Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. Other issues impacting American ranchers and farmers are the estate tax, rising land values, urban encroachment, manipulation of the live cattle market, and lack of protection and labeling for USA-raised beef. Meanwhile, government funded NGOs operate freely, largely without accountability, with agendas aimed directly at dismantling the free enterprise of the American beef industry.
Can the WWF be trusted to determine the amount of Earth’s total resources or accurately predict the future? The big problem with the sustainability agenda, is the lengthy track record of failed environmental predictions. In the 1970s, environmental science claimed Earth would soon enter an ice age due to manmade global cooling, basing their models on temperatures trends. Another consensus reached through “sound” science predicted the Earth’s inability to support an estimated population of 7 billion by 2000. The projected 7 billion wasn’t reached until 2012 with the earth still supporting human life today. Scientists claimed mass starvation worldwide was to occur by the year 2000 with only North America, Africa and Western Europe unaffected. Additionally, natural resources like oil, nickel and copper were predicted to be depleted by the year 2000. Yet recent fracking has made it possible to access new oil reserves in shale formations.
Mass extinction hasn’t occurred, Earth hasn’t run out of oxygen or sunlight, and acid rain hasn’t fallen from the sky. The only consistency in their science, is the apocalyptic view that the Earth is doomed at the hands of man and they alone know how to save it. When their science fails, they swing the other way as is evident with the current claim of global warming. All the while, groups like the WWF ignore trends in climate, populations, and agriculture production that don’t fit their agenda. They further ignore ever-advancing human innovation and ingenuity, which has elevated agriculture production to unprecedented levels. Representation of concepts related to the earth’s sustainability, as undisputed scientific fact, undermines science itself.
The names of industry organizations involved in these roundtables are used as endorsements to further the WWF’s agenda. Through participation, organizations suggest an acceptance of the opinion that current beef production is not sustainable in some way. An opinion with which many multigenerational ranchers disagree. The sheer coexistence of nature and ranching for centuries disproves that beef is a threat to biodiversity. To the contrary, ever-improving, thriving ranches indicate that cattle are healthy contributors to the biodiversity of the environment in which they live. Despite environmental propaganda, and in the face of demeaning rhetoric questioning their intelligence, ranchers as a whole continue to be most excellent stewards of the land on which their livelihoods depend.
Like many so-called “locally” and “stakeholder” driven initiatives, the GRSB and national roundtables were not created due to consumer demand, but rather by environmental organizations who seek to control what is not theirs. Clay laid out the plan at TED Global 2010, identifying the target companies, WalMart, McDonalds, JBS, Cargil, and others, then helped found the GRSB and national roundtables. Clay’s complete presentation can be found on www.youtube.com or www.ted.com (video and transcript). The beef industry should not sit at any table with environmentalists who use greenwashing and collusion to get what they want. It is more pressing than ever to become well educated about the agenda of these “stakeholders” and to speak up as producers to policymakers and industry leaders about the collusion taking place in our industry.
The Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association’s mission is to actively promote policy that will beneficially affect the live cattle industry at the local, state and national level, securing and preserving a viable livelihood for present and future generations. The Association shall serve to support the financial, environmental, cultural and historical interests of independent cattle producers throughout Colorado and across America. Learn more online at www.coloica.com or find us on Facebook.
Clay, Jason. (2010 Aug 16). How big brands can help save biodiversity [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcp5vvxtEaU
Clay, Jason. (2014). What I’ve Learned about Food and Sustainability, World Wildlife Magazine, Fall 2016. Retrieved from https://www.worldwildlife.org/magazine/issues/ fall-2014/articles/what-i-ve-learned-about-food-and-sustainability
McCarty, Rick. (2011 Mar 31). An interview with Dr. Jason Clay, Beef Issues Quarterly. Retrieved from http://www.beefissuesquarterly.com/beefissuesquarterly.aspx?id=4052
Nature Conservancy. (n.d.). Sustainable Beef: Changing the Supply Chain. Retrieved from http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/southamerica/brazil/placesweprotect/ sustainable-beef-infographic.xml
TED. (n.d.). Subtitle and Transcripts: How big brands can help save biodiversity. Clay, Jason. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jason_clay_how_big_brands_can_save_biodiversity/transcript?language=en
United Nations. (2014). United Nations Climate Summit. Agriculture Action Area One- Year Report: McDonald’s Commitment to Sustainable Beef, Glunz, Heidi. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/zerohunger/pdfs/15-19891-E-EOSG-Climate- Summit-2014%20final.pdf
World Wildlife Fund. (2015). Corporate Partnerships Report 2015: Overview of WWF’s Largest Corporate Partnerships, Fiscal Year 2015. Retrieved from https://d2ouvy59p0dg6k.cloudfront.net/downloads/final_fy2015_corporate_engagement.pdf
World Wildlife Fund. (2016 Feb. 22). Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Registers as Non- Profit Organization. Retrieved from http://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/ global-roundtable-for-sustainable-beef-registers-as-non-profit-organization
World Wildlife Fund. (n.d.). Sustainable Agriculture: Beef. Retrieved from http://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/beef
World Wildlife Fund. (2015). WWF Fact Sheet 2015: Market Transformation Initiative. Retrieved from http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/how_wwf_market_transformation_works.pdf
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