The soy moratorium may have spared the Amazon, but farmers have moved in elsewhere

Deforestation is not just an Amazonian problem. The Union of Concerned Scientists has pointed to growing forest loss in Gran Chaco, an area that touches Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, as well as Brazil’s Cerrado, a tropical savannah that is succumbing to another commodity, soy.

Brazil is the new frontier in soy production. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that by 2025 the country will be the largest producer of soybeans in the world, with production set to increase from 89 to 136 million tons, the vast majority destined for China.

According to Greenpeace, as much as 90% of the world’s soy is used as animal feed, with soya meal now the world’s most heavily traded agricultural product. In 2006 the Soy Moratorium came into force, which Greenpeace describes as one of its most successful campaigns in Brazil. But while it may have spared the Amazon from the ravages of soy farming, farmers moved in elsewhere.

Soybeans now represent 90% of all agriculture in the Cerrado biome, an area where, between 2000 to 2014, agriculture expanded by 87%, with soy beans particularly well adapted to the region’s acid soils.

In one five-year period, deforesting and burning of the Cerrado released nearly 1.5 million tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent (C02e) into the atmosphere, equal to the annual emissions of over 300 million cars.

There are now calls to expand the scope of the moratorium. Initially viewed negatively by the industry, it is now seen as a major commercial triumph, with deforestation-free soybeans opening the door to many new markets.

The impact has been dramatic, with deforestation having fallen by 86% in the Amazonian municipalities covered by the moratorium.  NGOs hope the same can be done in the Cerrado, says Greenpeace Brazil's Oliver Salge. “Greenpeace and other NGOs participating in the Soy Working group have already asked producers and traders in the group to include the Cerrado in the Soy Moratorium, or to find a specific solution to stop the deforestation in the region.”

This article is part of a series of articles on deforestation in supply chains. See also: 

'This is now a critical issue in supply chains'

Sustainable solution sought for palm oil in new frontier of Africa

Thinking small to tackle cocoa deforestation

Fresh hope in battle to save orangutan from palm oil

Beef supply chain blamed as deforestation climbs in Brazil

No deforestation  soy moratorium  Union of Concerned Scientists  Brazil  Paraguay  Bolivia  South America  Greenpeace 

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