Trees for big-brand meat

McDonald’s, M&S, Tesco and others call for action, but they’re still linked to deforestation

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 20 May 2017

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

  

A new investigation uses satellite imagery to reveal agriculture giants Cargill and Bunge are driving new deforestation the size of about 10,000 football fields in Latin America. The news comes just months after these companies were linked to deforestation at the same sites in Bolivia’s Amazon basin and Brazil’s vast Cerrado savannah forest.

’Completely unnecessary’

In the wake of the first investigation, those companies and their large corporate customers had pledged to act to prevent further deforestation – but the new evidence shows that their actions to date have been inadequate.

In just this small sample of South America’s soy belt, Mighty Earth’s investigation found a total of 60 square kilometres of new clearance (equivalent to approximately 10,000 football fields) on the farms it visited for the initial investigation, as well as 120 square kilometres of planned clearance – land that has been prepared to be bulldozed.

‘The tragedy of this continued deforestation is that it’s completely unnecessary. Cargill, Burger King and the other food and agriculture companies have proven that they can expand agriculture production without sacrificing forests, but they’ve so far refused to do this. The ongoing, landscape-scale forest destruction of ecosystems illustrates the urgency for a comprehensive, effective solution.’

GLENN HOROWITZ
CEO of Mighty Earth

Major brands call for action

Cargill and Bunge – which supply feed for the chickens, pigs, and cattle that end up on dinner plates around the world – have a highly effective forest protection system that has been running for 10 years in the Brazilian Amazon. However, according to Mighty Earth they have ‘obstructed efforts’ to extend the same protections to other soy-growing regions in which they operate: the Bolivian Amazon, Brazil’s Cerrado, Paraguay and Argentina.

Meanwhile, major brands have called on Cargill and Bunge to act: after seeing the results of the investigation, companies including McDonald’s, Unilever, Walmart/Asda, Ahold, Carrefour, Mars Petcare, Dunkin’ Brands, Kellogg’s, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Nestlé have all stated their support for joint action, as have Cargill and Bunge’s competitors ADM, Louis Dreyfus and Wilmar. They join investors representing more than half a trillion dollars in assets under management, as well as the Brazilian Environment Minister.

‘Short-sighted and destructive’

According to World Resources Institute, there are approximately 500 million acres of previously deforested and degraded land across Latin America and agriculture can be expanded on much of this land without sacrificing intact forests.

Under the existing Soy Moratorium, Cargill, Bunge, ADM, Louis Dreyfus and others have been able to expand soy production by more than six million acres without sacrificing forests.

‘We’ve seen in the Brazilian Amazon that soy crop expansion without deforestation is possible. Yet, industrial soy continues to expand at the expense of forests outside of the Brazilian Amazon. It is unnecessary, short-sighted and destructive to native ecosystems. Soy traders and their customers have an opportunity now to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains in other soy-growing regions. It’s a win-win for the environment, for the climate, and for consumers when these agricultural giants expand only onto previously cleared land.’

SHARON SMITH
Union of Concerned Scientists

It’s estimated that extending the existing forest protection system to the other soy growing areas in South America would cost less than $1 million per year, or 1/75,000th the value of the global soy trade.

Click here to read the full report, ‘Still At It’, from Mighty Earth.

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