UCL Institute of the Americas


Alice Essam

MSc Globalisation and Latin American Development, 2014-16

Dissertation title: Sustainability in the Soya Industry in Argentina

I became interested in the soya industry in Argentina after it was mentioned on a documentary investigating production of meat. How intriguing, I thought, that a country famous for its beef from cows roaming freely on the pampa, is now the world's third largest producer and one of the biggest exporters of soya, a popular source of protein for intensive meat production now used across the globe. This hadn't reached my attention when I had visited the country 5 years previously - I had to go back to investigate!

Through my studies and work I had developed an interest in the popular concept of sustainability. The production of soya can be linked with a number of sustainability paradigms and models, so I began to plan a fieldwork trip in order to gather relevant information and talk with people whose work concerned the industry, in order to understand their take on sustainability and the soya industry. During the six weeks of my trip I based myself in four different cities in Argentina where I gathered primary research, secondary research materials, and noted ideas of other aspects to research further upon my return to London.

I based myself in four cities: Buenos Aires, Rosario, Rio Cuarto and Cordoba. I met with representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, industry trade organisations, an environmental lawyer working on access to food, agronomists, university professors, economists, professionals working in sustainable business practices, an awareness network communicating claimed adverse health effects of agrochemicals, and I visited a soya processing plant and export port.

I thoroughly enjoyed my research; I was eager to visit Argentina again and learn more about the extent of the impacts of production and exportation of this small bean on the country's economy; the grant awarded by UCL assisted me in doing so by covering a large proportion of the cost of my flights. Whilst in Argentina, not only was I able to conduct official meetings, but I found almost everyone I spoke to about my reason for being in Argentina would offer their observations of how the industry had affected either the country's economy, politics, landscape and even housing development! Back in the UK, this industry is little known despite the fact that we are an important market and consume a number of products which contain soya derivatives. Not only did my research trip provide me with content for my dissertation, but with further food for thought concerning my Master's degree title: Globalisation and Latin American development.