Soy transition- Ethiopia and The Netherlands

Snethlage, Judit; Vonk, Remko; Arumugam, Ponraj; Conijn, Sjaak; Hermelink, Marleen; Ludwig, Fulco; Supit, Iwan; Chevuru, S.


This study looks at the potential of using soy to support a plant-based protein transition in the Netherlands and Ethiopia. These two countries represent two very different socio-economic contexts and have contrasting starting points for a potential protein transition. Currently, the Dutch diet is high in protein and mainly consumed via meat and milk. Ethiopia’s subsistence-oriented agriculture on the other hand is largely based on cereal crops, resulting on average in a low protein diet. For the research, the impacts of hypothetical protein transition are calculated. Ten percent of the protein consumed through cereal was replaced by soy protein for Ethiopia. For the Dutch case ten percent of the cow milk protein was interchanged by ten percent of soy protein drink. The effect of the soy protein transition is calculated for greenhouse gas emissions, water, and land use changes. The calculations were done with a mixed approach. The models WOFOST and Global LPJML combined with literature review. Despite the different contexts of both countries, some similarities arise in the conclusion. For both nations interchanging ten percent of protein consumption to soy protein will result in a reduction of land use. Both countries currently experience a great pressure on land use. Replacing a small part of the protein to soy will therefore be considered as a positive development. In addition, overall small impacts on the other indicators a consequence of the transition. Nonetheless, differences also have been found which focus mostly on the impact on diet and climate change. While in the Netherlands overconsumption of calories and fat is becoming a problem, Ethiopia still encounters areas with food insecurity. A decline therefore in fat and calories due to the soy protein transition is a beneficial effect for the Netherlands. However, in Ethiopia this would not be the case. With respect to climate change, in Ethiopia it seems the yields will increase for soy. A changing climate is expected to be more favorable for growing soy in Ethiopia. In the Netherlands, the soy yield will increase but with less protein content and higher fat content. This could counter the aforementioned initial positive impact of decreasing fat. Follow-up research is needed on both further developing the methodology and calculating other hypothetical scenarios.