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Brazilian soy industry extends moratorium on deforestation indefinitely

Riparian forest and soy. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Riparian forest and soy. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

  • The Brazilian soy industry has indefinitely extended a landmark moratorium on rainforest clearing for soybean production.
  • The agreement, first signed in 2006 after a Greenpeace campaign, had previously been renewed on an annual basis, regularly raising fears among environmentalists that it might not be renewed despite its success in helping curb deforestation for soy production in the Brazilian Amazon.
  • Brazilian soy exports were worth $31 billion in 2015.

The Brazilian soy industry has indefinitely extended a landmark moratorium on rainforest clearing for soybean production.

The agreement, first signed in 2006 after a Greenpeace campaign, had previously been renewed on an annual basis, regularly raising fears among environmentalists that it might not be renewed despite its success in helping curb deforestation for soy production in the Brazilian Amazon. The moratorium became a model for future zero deforestation commitments adopted by cattle, palm oil, and pulp and paper companies.

Greenpeace quickly welcomed the renewal.

“The renewal of the moratorium indefinitely ensures producers and trading companies can continue to rely on forest friendly Amazon soy to keep the doors to the global market open, even in times of environmental and political-economic crisis”, said Greenpeace’s Paulo Adario in a statement. “The forest thanks us for this commitment. And we, at the Soy Working Group, gain resilience to continue towards a permanent tool that combines production and forests conservation and the protection of the peoples who live in the Amazon.”

Soy with a strip of legal forest reserve in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

The new agreement was signed by the Brazilian Ministry, the Soy Working Group (GTS – Grupo de Trabalho da Soja), the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oils Industry (ABIOVE), Brazil’s National Association of Grain Exporters (ANEC), and Greenpeace.

According to Greenpeace, the agreement “guarantees market access only to soy that is free from deforestation, slave labor or threats to indigenous lands.”

The group noted that while soy production has expanded by a million hectares in the Brazilian Amazon since the moratorium was signed in July 2006, only 0.8 percent of that expansion occurred in newly deforested areas. Prior to the moratorium, soy was a major driver of deforestation in the region, especially in the states of Mato Grosso and Para.

“This large increase in soy production while respecting the moratorium is proof to the market: producing without destroying the forest is good business”, said Adario.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is down roughly 80 percent as measured on an annual basis since its 2004 peak.

The jaguar is one of the biggest mammals found in the Amazon rainforest. Photo by Rhett A. Butler