»TFG Briefing Note on Proposed CA AB 32 Regulations

»Brazil’s Emerging Sectoral Framework for Reducing
Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation

»The Oslo Climate and Forest Conference
Interim REDD+ Partnership Adopted May 27, 2010

»REDD+ in the Post-Copenhagen World: Recommendations for Interim Public Finance

»Borneo Clouded Leopard Conservation Update

»REDD Reality-check: The challenges of putting potential into practice in Africa

»COP15 REDD+ Facilitator, Tony La Vina, Proposes Way Forward

»Change. Hope. Tropical Forests.

» Source and Sink: One Year. A Poet’s Perspective on a Year of Tropical Deforestation.

» TFG paper explores the range of private sector financial tools to conserve tropical forests

»Governors Sign Historic Deforestation Accord

» Re-Energizing REDD

»The Problem: Tropical Deforestation

» The Solution: REDD

» As World Steps Forward to Help Save Tropical Forests, US Retreats

» To Bali in 21 sets of Brackets

» Coral Reefs

»Trees Make Delegates see REDD

»Victory Lap

» A History of Climate Change and Tropical Forest Negotations

» Carbon Karma

»High Speed, Low Drag
Conservation

» Interview With Salil Shetty

» Soy You Wanna Be An Environmentalist

» Interview With Elsa Esquivel Bazan

» TFCA

 

 

Soy You Wanna Be an Environmentalist? Download Article in PDF Format
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soy Soy You Wanna Be an Environmentalist?

~ Does the rise of soy mean the fall of the Amazon?

April 25, 2006

It wasn’t so long ago that a portion of the fast-food-consuming
population—we’ll call them the “green meat-eaters”—were
boycotting McDonalds and the likes because they didn’t want
a McMeal raised from the ashes of the Amazon.  Recent reports
suggest that despite the actions of the green meat-eaters, cattle
feed—particularly soy—is still behind the axe.  Soy
agriculture is on the rise in Brazil and will continue to destroy
invaluable forest land without immediate and direct consumer education
and action.

Today, agriculture is the largest factor feeding the fire of Amazon
destruction—and soy is the leading crop culprit. Brazilian
soy exports rose 322
%
between 1995 and 2001. Currently, Brazil’s soy
production
has been estimated at over 50 million tons per year,
with an area under cultivation of over 20 million hectares.

The vast majority of Brazilian soy exports go to Europe and China,
where high-protein soya, used principally as animal feed, is in high
demand.  A recent report
by Greenpeace
linked Brazilian soy to McDonald’s
chicken nuggets
and other food products in Europe, notably England
and the Netherlands.

A related
report
claims that the soy arriving in European ports is a
result of “criminal agriculture.”  John
Buchanan
of Conservation
International
spoke of such crimes in a TFG phone interview,
stating that soy production in Brazil would not be problematic
if suppliers followed basic Brazilian laws.  Soy-producing
conglomerates, like Cargill,
practice illegal agriculture and forestry methods despite governmental
awareness of their crimes. 

These criminal actions will continue as long as there is consumer
tolerance for products linked to losses in the Amazon.  Which
made us wonder: how is this affecting US soy products—those
that many people turn to in order to avoid meat products?  TFG
recently contacted Gardenburger,
a popular brand of meatless burgers, to ask where the soy in their
non-burgers originated. The best answer anyone from Gardenburger
could give us—and we talked to a lot of people—was
a sorry, “Our soy comes from a plant in Illinois.”  TFG
also contacted Silk, makers
of the soy milk of choice for Starbucks.  They
were much more helpful: Silk’s soymilk generally comes from
the US, but because of the 2003 draught, they began importing soy
from Brazil, Argentina and China.  The Silk spokesperson said
that they ensure that “no rainforest is damaged in the growth
or production” of their soybeans, but they couldn’t elaborate
on how they ensure this; in our minds, that leaves an all too wide
margin of error.  Silk’s response was encouraging—at
least they’re aware of the problem—but not altogether
settling.  Is it possible that vigilant vegetarians and liberal
latte drinkers are unwittingly driving bulldozers in Brazil? The
answer, as far as TFG has found, is that it’s possible.  And
that possibility, however slight, should be enough to ruffle the
feathers of any card-carrying tree-hugger.

In today’s global economy, the adage, “You are what
you eat” has a lot of weight.  Soy clearly has its benefits.  It’s
an important protein source, especially for vegetarians and for millions
of people who can’t afford the luxury of meat. Soy is undoubtedly
kinder and gentler on the planet as a whole than industrial meat.
And like any other commodity, it produces economic benefits for growers
and traders. But soy may not be the ‘magic green bean’ of
eco-lore. Just like real estate, the most important factor for soy’s
sustainability is: location, location, location.

And that’s where you, the consumer, have a tremendous amount
of power.  The rise of soy doesn’t have to mean the fall
of the Amazon.  An ounce of effort from each of us could pressure
companies to get their facts straight and get their soy from sustainable
suppliers. Begin by asking questions. Vegetarians, ask soy-based
food companies you support if any of their soy may come from ‘areas-previously-known-as-tropical-forests.’ Omnivores,
ask your butcher or burger flipper where your meat comes from, and
whether the animal’s feed might spring from forests that were
turned into fields.  Be persistent: make sure companies give
you assurance (and some evidence to back it up) that they don’t
source soy from tropical forests. And if you’re not 100% satisfied,
tell the company you’ll be switching brands or starting a lemon
juice diet. Please tell your friends what you learn and encourage
them to get active. If enough people raise their voices, together
we can make a difference.  Better yet, tell us, too.  Drop
TFG an email (info @ tropicalforestgroup.org)
with what you find out. We’ll keep
track of who’s naughty and who’s nice, so please stay
tuned. Thanks for taking a bite out of Amazonian deforestation…