WASHINGTON — The Round Table on Responsible Soy, a broad-based coalition of producers, traders and end users such as Bunge, Cargill, Unilever, Ahold, Carrefour and many others, have agreed to implement a pilot program of voluntary production standards targeted at reducing the negative impact of soy production on the environment, particularly in South America.

Producers attempting to comply with the standards will be required to take specific measures to protect the environment. These include a prohibition on the conversion of areas with high conservation value, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and eliminating hazardous pesticides from soy farming.

"The challenge now is to find mechanisms to reward producers who protect forests and soil by allowing them to sell carbon along with their soy," said Dr. Jason Clay, senior vice-president of market transformation for the World Wildlife Fund. "This is a win-win situation. Forests and soil are protected, producers have an additional source of income and retailers and brands can now buy responsible soy as a way to reduce their carbon footprint."

The agreement came as the result of dialogue between the W.W.F., farmers and the soy industry, and was finalized at the group’s fourth annual meeting this week in Campinas, Brazil. The next step in the development of the program is to test standards and then revise them at the group’s next meeting in 2010. The development of a certification system to verify compliance with the standards and the creation of methods to trace the soy also is being worked on.