The Donau Soja Organisation

For a sustainable, safe and European protein supply

Donau Soja is a European, multi-stakeholder, not-for profit membership organisation supporting the European Protein Transition with a particular emphasis on sustainable European Non-GMO soya production.

It is based in Vienna, with regional offices in Serbia, Ukraine and Moldova. More than 300 members in 27 countries, 866 certified partners and 24 European governments have joined forces with a common vision.

Our Vision

A sustainable, safe and European protein supply.

Our Mission

Donau Soja supports its partners and members in progressing change to address social, environmental and economic challenges in soya production and consumption. This will increase efficiency, fairness and sustainability in European food and feed protein value chains


The organisation’s most important objectives are the support of regional soya bean cultivation according to clearly defined criteria of quality:


Sustainable European Soya

We support the cultivation of sustainable soya in Europe according to European Union farm regulations and Donau Soja standards

Value Chains for Plant Protein

We are working with our members and partners to support value chain developments for European plant proteins.

Research and Innovation

We take part in research and innovation activities which support the development of European soya production

The development and implementation of the Donau Soja and Europe Soya standards is fundamental to the work of the Donau Soja Organisation. They are the foundations upon which sustainable, regional, non-GMO soya production for European-based value chains is based.

Donau Soja standard and Europe Soya standard:

give consumers the certainty that products have been produced using non-GMO soya grown sustainably in Europe

open the door to European businesses to become pioneers in providing regional, non-GMO animal feed, and serving the regional value chain

make a vital contribution to integrating the Danube region, providing economic incentives and opportunities for Danube countries (Donau Soja)

make an essential contribution to a non-GMO European protein supply

allow businesses to meet demand for sustainably-manufactured food and feed, giving them a clear competitive advantage

The Donau Soja Organisation supports:

The move towards more sustainable and healthy diets Organic farming

Organic farming

Standardised guidelines for non-GMO production in Europe

The establishment of standardised plant protection regulations for the Danube region

The establishment of a best practice roadmap for sustainable soya bean cultivation

Respected European organisations and institutions support our ambitious initiative: the food trade, large agricultural trading houses, the feed industry, oil mills, many farmers and processors, universities, civil society and environmental organisations.

Members of the Association include farmers, companies all along the value chain, research institutions and civil society organisations, who are working together to achieve our common goals. Each full member has equal rights and voting rights in the General Assembly. The Board of Directors, Presidium, Technical Advisory Board and Scientific Advisory Board are the main Association bodies.


  • 2023

    1 m tonnes of certified Donau Soja / Europe Soya
    World Soybean Research Conference (WSRC) in Vienna
    Adapting our DS/ES standards to EUDR
    Non-GMO Summit in Frankfurt
    Donau Soja SDG Report published
    ADA Evaluation Report completed
    Legume Generation consortium


  • Expansion

    Legume Hub launch
    10 years anniversary
    More than 300 members
    Representation in Romania
    Protein Partnerships in Moldova
    Aid projects in Ukraine and Moldova


  • Growth

    Protein Partnerships in Ukraine
    Market development in Western Europe
    Nordic aquaculture campaign
    Revision of Donau Soja/Europe Soya Standard
    Restructuring the organisation
    Fields of Europe GmbH


  • Growth

    Fields of Europe Standard
    New monthly Market Report
    Carbon footprint analyses


  • Growth

    286 members from 25 countries
    Team of 35 people across Europe
    866 certified partners
    Start of Protein Partnership Programme


  • Release

    Release of Donau Soja Protein strategy
    Start of Moldova office



    Europe Soya soybeans appear on the market
    Start of Ukraine Office
    Start of Austrian Development Agency Strategic Partnership Project


  • Growth

    Start of
    – Release of Best Practice Manual
    – Establishment of Europe Soya standard
    – The first Europe Soya certified company


  • Growth

    Start of
    – Donau Soja GmbH
    – Novi Sad Office
    – Bucharest Office
    – Cooperation with Austrian Development Agency


  • ADA / GIZ

    Start of the joint “Promotion of GMO-free quality soya from the Danube region” project with GIZ


  • Establishment

    Establishment of the Donau Soja standard
    Donau Soja soybeans first appear on the market
    The first Donau Soja certified company


  • Foundation

    Founded by 20 members from Austria and Germany
    1 employee in AT


Donau Soja’S Theory of Change

Our Theory of Change is a comprehensive idea, description and illustration of the change that Donau Soja wishes to see in the world and our understanding of how we will contribute to that change. It provides the basis to measure the results of our work and progress towards our goals.

The following picture shows an overview of our efforts:

A common vision

Donau Soja enjoys broad support from the policy community: 15 European governments signed the Donau Soja Declaration between 2013 and 2015.

Governments recognise the need for added value in the Danube region, and the importance of strengthening an independent European protein supply.

The Europe Soya Declaration was signed in January 2018. It aims to boost European soya bean cultivation as a step towards reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Switzerland joined in January 2019, bringing the total number of countries supporting the Europe Soya Declaration to 19.



Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Moldova, Germany, and Austria cooperate in the Donau Soja programme in order to bolster the value chain in the Danube region and create an independent European protein supply. The aim is to promote soya cultivation as part of sustainable crop rotation.

Find the signed Donau Soja Declaration here.




Ukraine, Deputy Minister Vladislava Rutytska
Slovakia, State Secretary Magdaléna Lacko-Bartošová


Moldova, Minister Vasile Bumacov
Poland, Minister Stanisław Kalemba


Bulgaria, Deputy Minister Byurhan Abazov
Romania, State Secretary Achim Irimescu
Croatia, Minister Tihomir Jakovina
Austria, Federal Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich
Switzerland, State Secretary Bernard Lehmann
Serbia, State Secretary Danilo Golubović
Slovenia, Minister Franc Bogovič
Hungary, State Secretary György Czerván
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Deputy Prime Minister Jerko Ivanković-Lijanović
Republika Srpka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ministerial Advisor Miljan Erbez
Germany, Bavarian Minister for Agriculture Helmut Brunner


The Europe Soya Declaration aims to boost soya bean cultivation in Europe, bringing it even closer to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially as regards improving the world’s food supply and using natural resources sustainably.

Protein crops such as soya beans play an important role in the European agriculture and food industry. Currently, Europe imports the equivalent of around 40 million tonnes of soya beans per year from overseas, especially from the Americas, which makes Europe highly dependent on a foreign protein supply. At the same time, protein plants are grown on only 2 to 3% of European fields. However, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, large areas suitable for protein plants can be found—areas where only a few crops are cultivated throughout the year. By growing protein plants such as soya beans, peas or broad beans, farmers could introduce more variety onto their fields and use their harvest as animal feed. This would reduce dependence on feed imports from overseas and would be a chance for rural development.

Find the signed Europe Soya Declaration here.



Switzerland, Guy Parmelin


Kosovo, Nenad Rikalo
Moldova, Iurie Usurelu
Marcedonia, Ljupco Nikolovski
Montenegro, Milutin Simovic


Germany, Christian Schmidt
Italy, Maurizio Martina
Romania, Danut Alexandru Potor
Luxemburg, Fernand Etgen
Slovakia, Gabriel Csicsai
Hungary, Dr. Sándor Fazekas
France, Stéphane Travert
Finnland, Jari Leppä
Poland, Ryszard Zarudzki
Slovenia, Dejan Židan
The Netherlands, Aldrik Gierveld
Austria Andrä, Rupprechter
Greece, Evangelos Apostolou
Croatia, Tomislav Tolušić

Protein Strategy

The overall goal of Donau Soja is a sustainable, safe and European protein supply

The development of soya production in Europe is part of a wider change in how we produce and use protein. The far-reaching consequences of protein production and use are now the subject of public debate.

Building on the Europe Soya Declaration, Donau Soja has developed the Donau Soja Protein Strategy as a means of contributing to the public debate on behalf of all its members. The strategy builds on a holistic and science-based understanding of the role of protein in the sustainable development of agri-food systems.

The Donau Soja Science Advisory Board was consulted on the first draft before it was considered by the Donau Soja Board. The Board then issued a revised draft which was sent to all the members who were invited to comment.
All the comments were considered during the finalisation of the document, and the strategy was unanimously passed by the General Assembly of Donau Soja in April 2018.

The strategy is therefore a powerful statement from the agri-food sector, as represented by Donau Soja, about their commitment to support profound change.


Due to the nature of the climate and soil, many farmers in Europe are remarkably good at growing cereal crops such as wheat, barley and maize. This supports the production of large volumes of carbohydrate-rich grains which are mostly fed to livestock.

The European Union’s productive agricultural system relies on two major inputs: around 11 million tonnes of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser for crops, and high-protein meal, made from around 36 million tonnes of soybeans, as a protein supplement used to feed animals. The increase in European demand for plant protein over the last 60 years is largely due to the increased production and consumption of meat and dairy products.

After China, the European Union is now the second largest importer of soya from South America. While the European Union’s agricultural system as a whole is 71% self-sufficient in tradable plant protein, 86% of the plant protein which is imported to meet the 29% deficit is soya.

This protein deficit is a fundamental challenge to the resilience, acceptance and performance of our agri-food systems. This is Europe’s Protein Challenge.

Addressing the protein challenge

A holistic approach is needed to address the Protein Challenge and deliver the Protein Transition. The system change this requires can be viewed as a set of five pillars:

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Sustainable and responsible imports

The Protein Challenge is global. Although is vital that Europe leads this system change, we need China at our side. Even with a significant agricultural shift, Europe is still likely to need to import plant protein from traditional exporting regions. However, we must switch to importing certified products from regions and systems which are thoroughly validated according to stringent environmental and social standards. We must also collaborate closely with China to ensure a global shift towards more sustainable protein production. It is our current farming and food systems which have the greatest impact on the nitrogen cycle. The production and consumption of protein are major drivers of greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrate and ammonia pollution in the air and water, paired with a loss of natural habitats and biodiversity, can only be addressed by a global shift to more sustainable protein production, achieved by meeting responsible production and trade standards. It is here that Europe and China can work together to drive global change.

Increased production of grain legumes in Europe

We forfeit many agronomic benefits and environmental advantages because of low levels of legume planting. Increasing grain legume production in Europe will bring a wide range of advantages and reduce the protein deficit. In Europe in particular, grain legumes will increase crop diversity and support pollinating insects. Nitrogen fertiliser is unnecessary as legumes absorb nitrogen from the air. They counter the build-up of disease, pests and weeds in cereal-based crop rotations by being biologically very different to cereals. Overall, a general lack of crop diversity is associated with stagnation in crop yields and higher costs, as our primary crops succumb to more weeds, pests and diseases. European farmers can respond to the increased demand for plant protein produced in Europe to high environmental and social standards, and simultaneously meet the growing demand for non-GMO products and regional/local value chains. The industry can collectively set standards for all protein sources and signal support for sustainable production. The greatest potential for improving cropping systems using grain legumes lies in Central and Eastern Europe. As a result, transatlantic trade would be partly replaced by east-to-west sourcing within Europe, helping to reduce social and economic disparities within the EU, and encourage regional development in what are currently deprived rural areas. In western Europe there is also potential to increase grain legume production without displacing cereal and oilseed production, due to the yield benefits of crop rotations.

Improved use of existing and new protein resources

Plants are by far the most important primary source of protein. While co-products such as rapeseed meal, sunflower seed meal and distillers’ dried grains are already used by the feed industry, there remain opportunities for better use of agri-food residues in livestock feeding. Additionally, in many areas of Europe our grassland-based production systems could make better use of grass and high-protein grassland species such as clover (a legume) to reduce soya use. Forage crops such as alfalfa are also protein sources. There are also potential opportunities for protein production in fields such as algae culture.

Increased efficiency of protein use

Better matching of livestock diets to livestock protein requirements saves protein and reduces pollution by reducing the excretion of nitrogen compounds. This can make a significant contribution to farmers’ compliance with nutrient balance-based fertiliser management systems. Protein is usually an expensive component of feeds, hence more precise feeding can also reduce production costs.

Healthier and more sustainable diets

The scope of the European Protein Challenge is largely determined by the quantity of livestock products which are consumed and produced. Human diets which rely more on plant-based protein, especially pulses and soya, are healthier and more sustainable compared to the typical diet of EU consumers today. A large proportion of the population consumes more meat and dairy products than recommended for a healthy diet. This has far-reaching consequences because it requires a large livestock sector. Most of the nitrogen in the plant protein consumed by these livestock is excreted and is the primary cause of agricultural pollution of the air and water. The environmental impact is particularly significant where livestock production is regionally concentrated. Reducing the consumption of animal products to a reasonable level, with a corresponding reduction in livestock production, would improve the performance of our agri-food system in terms of human health, the environment and land use.

Find more information from the European Plant-Based Foods Association, ENSA here