Ag Giants Announce Big Move to Save Brazilian Rainforest

But Deforestation Outside of Brazilian Amazon Still Gets Green Light from Big Traders

Forest and climate advocates today praised the extension of a landmark initiative by agribusiness giants to protect the Amazon rainforest from soy production in Brazil.

Following pressure from civil society and brand-name soy buyers, the Brazilian soy industry announced today that they would renew the Amazon Soy Moratorium, a historically successful forest protection measure that was set to expire at the end of 2014, through May 2016.

“The renewal of the Soy Moratorium shows that companies recognize that they can continue to expand production without sacrificing the world’s forests,” said Glenn Hurowitz, Chair of the Forest Heroes campaign, which worked with other groups to encourage major soy buyers around the world to support a renewal of the moratorium. “Brazil’s success on soy has sparked a second green revolution that is breaking the link between agriculture and deforestation, as we’re now seeing with palm oil in Southeast Asia. The transformation that started in Brazil is being exported around the world, and now is no time to slow down.”

Hurowitz said that big agriculture traders like ADM, Bunge, Cargill, and Wilmar must immediately extend the moratorium to areas outside the Brazilian Amazon that are also threated by deforestation for soy and other commodities, such as the Brazilian cerrado, Paraguay’s Chaco, and the non-Brazilian Amazon in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru,and other countries.

“The soy moratorium has proven that companies like ADM have the capacity to eliminate deforestation when they want to,” Hurowitz said. “If they can protect the Brazilian Amazon, surely they can protect other highly biodiverse, carbon rich parts of South America that are under equal threat from their unsustainable business operations.”

The Soy Moratorium is a voluntary corporate commitment by the Brazilian Vegetable Oil Association and the Brazilian Grain Exporters Association to prohibit any soy cultivation that drives forest clearing in the Amazon. Since its inception in 2006, the Moratorium has been one of the most successful private sector initiatives to protect forests in the tropics. Studies show that prior to the Moratorium, approximately 20% of deforestation in the Amazon was driven by soy cultivation, and since its implementation, deforestation for soy has fallen to less than 1%. Civil society groups in Brazil and internationally joined with customers to call for a renewal of the soy moratorium.

Though deforestation in Brazil is still far lower than before the moratorium, in 2013 it rose 29%. Earlier this year, the agribusiness associations, including three major U.S. commodity traders—Cargill, Bunge and ADM—announced that the Moratorium would expire on December 31, 2014. However, experts and advocates warned that if the moratorium were cut, soy would re-emerge as a leading driver of forest clearing, biodiversity loss and climate pollution in the Amazon. 

Photo: Soy field abutting against tropical forest, MongaBay.com

On November 25, 2014
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