Soya traders agree to a moratorium on Amazon deforestation following customer pressure
25 July 2006 - In a statement released in Brazil, multinational soya traders have agreed to a two year moratorium on buying soya from newly deforested land in the Amazon. This move shows that the international soya trade has been affected by the negative publicity around the huge environmental crisis in the Amazon rainforest. This is an important move forward, but it is their actions not their words that is important.
Following a Greenpeace investigation into the impacts of the soya trade in the Amazon, McDonald's and other leading European food retailers have formed a unique alliance with Greenpeace to demand action from soya traders to stop deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
As a result of pressure from this alliance, the US commodities giants Cargill, ADM, Bunge, French-owned Dreyfus, and Brazilian-owned Amaggi - which between them account for the majority of the soya trade in Brazil - along with the rest of the soya trade in Brazil have been brought to the negotiating table.
The traders have been discussing an initiative proposed by Greenpeace and the food companies that includes criteria designed to boost the Brazilian Government's efforts to stop deforestation, enforce governance, protect critical habitats, and safeguard the lands of indigenous peoples and traditional communities.
The soya traders commitment to a limited two year moratorium risks being no more than a token gesture, unless the traders deliver real change to protect the Amazon.
Greenpeace is demanding that the moratorium stays until proper procedures for legality and governance are in place and until there is an agreement with the Brazilian Government and key stakeholders on long term protection for the Amazon rainforest. A working group will be established, made up of soya traders, producers, NGOs, and government to put in place an action plan.
The soya traders' statement follows a three year Greenpeace investigation into the negative impacts of soya in the Amazon. Soya is the leading cash crop in Brazil and soya farming - much of it illegal - is now one of the biggest drivers, along with cattle ranching and illegal logging, of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Violent conflict over illegally cleared land is not uncommon. Most of this soya is exported to Europe to feed chicken, pigs and cows for meat products.
"The part played by food companies selling products which have a direct link to Amazon deforestation for soya has been crucial in bringing the big soya traders to the negotiating table. Now the challenge is for the soya trade to deliver real on the ground results to protect the Amazon rainforest from destruction," said Gerd Leipold, Executive Director of Greenpeace International.
A statement released by McDonald's today says: "When we were first alerted to this issue by Greenpeace, we immediately reached out to our suppliers, other NGOs and other companies to resolve this issue and take action...We are determined to do the right thing together with our suppliers and the Brazilian government, to protect the Amazon from further destruction...The two-year time frame set for the initiative is, we hope, indicative of the sense of urgency with which the soya traders wish to implement the governance programme and all of its conditions. We expect that should some of the measures take longer than the stated two years to implement, the moratorium would remain in existence until all commitments have been fulfilled."
The Amazon is not only the most bio diverse region on the planet but is also important for the regulation of the climate and for the lives of millions of people living there. Yet because of unprecedented levels of destruction for agricultural commodities like soya, an area of the Amazon the size of five football pitches has been lost every minute over the last 10 years.
Greenpeace Brazil Executive Director, Frank Guggenheim said, "We need to keep pushing for an agreement that will really protect the future of the rainforest and the Amazon people. Disputes over land and forest resources have not only destroyed large areas of the Amazon but also claimed thousands of lives. Soya traders must now help bring governance and environmental protection to the entire region".
All of the food companies calling for action to protect the rainforest have also pledged to continue their demands for non genetically modified (GM) soya from their suppliers. Greenpeace will continue to campaign against the use of GM crops within the Amazon rainforest and elsewhere.
(1) Eating up the Amazon, Greenpeace, April 2006.