BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — Thirteen European Union member states in mid-June signed theEuropean Soya Declaration,  an initiative focused on supporting local, regional, national and European initiatives to develop sustainable domestic protein supplies, especially those derived from soybeans.

The 13 member states that signed the document include: Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

“Because of increasing consumer interest in genetically modified (GM)-free products, especially those of animal origin, the signatories are making efforts to bring forward an increasing choice for consumers with respect to GM-free food and feed,” the declaration noted. “They therefore support the further development of markets for sustainably cultivated non-GMO soybeans and soybean products as well as the establishment of transparent product labeling systems based on certified production standards such as Danube Soya and Europe Soya. The signatories also support the development of partnerships, including between E.U. and non-E.U. countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, so that more sustainable, certified soybeans are cultivated, processed and traded in Europe.”

In a July 24 Global Agricultural Information Network report, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlighted the importance of the Netherlands signing the declaration. According to the USDA, the Netherlands is the second largest importer of soybeans and derivatives after China, importing 4.4 million tonnes of soybeans and 3.1 million tonnes of soybean meal in 2016. The Netherlands uses about 40% of the imported product domestically, the USDA said.

In a letter to the Dutch Parliament dated July 7, Martijn van Dam, Dutch agricultural minister, said one of the main reasons the Netherlands signed the declaration was because it is seeing increasing demand by European consumers for GM-free, organic and vegetable protein-based products.