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European farmed salmon sector to use only deforestation-free Brazilian soy

An atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), at the Atlanterhavsparken aquarium in Ålesund, Norway. Photo by Hans-Petter Fjeld via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA).

An atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), at the Atlanterhavsparken aquarium in Ålesund, Norway. Photo by Hans-Petter Fjeld via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA).

  • Three Brazilian salmon-feed supply growers CJ Selecta, Caramuru and Imcopa/Cervejaria Petrópolis will produce and harvest only deforestation- and conversion-free soybean supply chain products.
  • The change is a result of the first large-scale, protein-producing sector that’s eliminated links to tropical deforestation throughout the supply chain.
  • Under the international agreement, no soybean crops produced on land converted after August 2020 will be allowed into supply chains, and the new standards will apply to future purchase contracts.

The European salmon industry’s Brazilian soy product supply chain for feed is set to become deforestation-free. According to the Rainforest Foundation Norway, Brazilian salmon-feed supply growers CJ Selecta, Caramuru and Imcopa/Cervejaria Petrópolis say anything they produce and harvest post-August 2020 must be part of a deforestation- and conversion-free soybean supply chain. Their products supply feed to the European salmon market, which means that sector of the market is now deforestation-free.

The change is part of a growing momentum toward verifiable deforestation-free sustainable supply chains. That momentum has been driven in part by growing pressure from consumers.  

The Brazilian companies are part of the first large-scale, protein-producing sector that has eliminated links to tropical deforestation throughout its supply chain. All three companies have already started providing deforestation-free products to European markets. 

Under the new commitment, the entirety of their soybean business operations, including portions external to the salmon value chain, will be put to the same standard for all markets. In addition, any soybean crops produced on land converted after August 2020 will not be allowed into companies’ supply chains. Their altered standards will apply to any new soy purchase contracts.

“We’ve urged the companies to set a cut-off date as far back as possible in order to avoid further deforestation,” said Ida Breckan Claudi, a senior advisor with the Rainforest Foundation Norway who specializes in global soy supply chains, in an email to Mongabay. “We’re very happy that the cut-off date is 2020, and not 2021.”

Bolstered by civil society support from ProTerra and WWF Brazil, the soy supply chain that originates in Brazil and ends in salmon-producing countries like Norway will be managed through a monitoring system. 

The only salmon feed producer that won’t participate is Cargill Aqua Nutrition, whose parent company is Cargill Inc. The largest privately-held company in the U.S., Cargill has come under increasing pressure in recent years on its environmental record from civil society and the media. 

The companies that are participating have said the move is part of a long-term approach that’s rooted in sustainability. 

“The environmental challenges we face must be solved through united efforts,” said Patricia Sugui, CJ Selecta’s sustainability manager, in a statement. “Agreeing on [a monitoring] system and committing to the August 2020 cut-off date is an important contribution in securing a sustainable value chain that we can be proud of.” 

Several key Norwegian salmon industry leaders have supported the transition, particularly Grieg Seafood and feed producer Skretting. The forward-facing approach is in sharp contrast to other protein industries such as chicken and beef that still allow deforestation-causing soy in their supply chains. In May 2020, for example, Rainforest Foundation Norway took the Danish government to task for its environmentally-destructive pork supply chain. 

Faazi Adam, a research and engagement manager at The FAIRR Initiative, described the financial implications of soy-related deforestation connected to global food companies as “a pressing risk to both planet and profits.” FAIRR is an international investor network that integrates and evaluates ESG – or Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance – goals and issues within protein supply chains.

“Despite this impending threat…62% of meat and fish producers don’t reveal any information about how they plan to reduce deforestation in soy supply chains,” said Adam in a statement. He described it as “a historic blind spot for animal protein companies.” 

He said animal protein companies and affiliated soy suppliers should be deforestation-free in order “to avoid the worst impacts of biodiversity loss and climate change.” 

The changes in the supply chain to the European salmon feed market come as one of the world’s largest retail chains, Walmart, announces plans for deforestation-free beef by 2022 and soy by 2023 from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The Walmart initiatives are part of the corporation’s growing list of public pledges to bring its operations into a more conservation-first line of business. The Walmart Foundation has already invested in other conservation initiatives like the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch, a deforestation-monitoring platform.

Banner image: An atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), at the Atlanterhavsparken aquarium in Ålesund, Norway. Photo by Hans-Petter Fjeld via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA).