Soya in the meat and dairy supply chains of UK supermarkets could be contributing to illegal deforestation in the Amazon, an investigation by Unearthed, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Ecostorm has revealed.
The findings undermine claims by some global meatpackers, animal feed companies and supermarkets that soya is no longer linked to Amazon destruction.
New deforestation figures
New Data from the Brazilian Space Agency INPE’s DETER-B deforestation monitoring system registered the highest rate of deforestation for the month of January since DETER-B was launched in 2016.
In January alone, the alerts estimated that 430 km² of rainforest was cleared. This represents an increase of more than 418% compared with January 2021.
Deforestation alerts are mainly concentrated in the states of Mato Grosso (main image), Rondônia and Pará.
The news comes despite pledges made by 100+ governments including Brazil at COP26 to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.
In Mato Grosso state, which stretches over the southern part of the Amazon and grows more soya than anywhere else in Brazil, 1,180 square km of rainforest was felled from 2009 to 2019 on soya farms to grow other crops or to provide pasture for cattle ranching.
This is according to data analysed by the Brazilian NGO Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) and shared with the investigation partners. The vast majority of this deforestation was illegal, lacking licenses under Brazil’s Forest Code.
Soya from the areas most at risk for this type of deforestation is regularly shipped to the UK, Spain and other European countries for use as livestock feed on factory farms by major grain traders including Bunge, which supplies soya to Spain and Cargill, a major UK supplier. Cargill’s customers include Tesco, Asda and Lidl.