Brazil supplies some 28 per cent of the world’s soy bean, according to ABIOVE, the Brazilian Vegetable Oil Industry Association, producing around 57m tonnes in 2006.
However the gains to be made from cultivating soy have resulted in clearance of large swathes of the Amazon rainforest, and marred the environmental image of soy for manufacturers and consumers.
A scheme to counter deforestation and improve the industry’s environmental record was launched by ABIOVE and the Brazilian Grain Exporters Association (ANE), together with civil society organisations including Greenpeace and WWF, in 2006. They formed a soy working group, known as GTS.
The industry associations pledged that their member companies would not trade soy originating from areas deforested after 24 July 2006. ABOIVE’s members include major soy players Imcopa, Bunge, ADM and Cargill. Together, the members are responsible for about 72 per cent of all the soybean processing in Brazil.
The initiative has been deemed a success thus far by Carlos Minc, Minister of the Environment, who officially joined in in 2008. He said “The monitoring of the Ministry of Environment concluded that soybean is not anymore an important element in the Amazon deforestation”.
However the moratorium has been extended until July 2010, as the GTS said “the Amazon Biome governance conditions are not yet sufficient to allow a suspension of the moratorium”.
In the last three years, the GTS has used monitoring techniques such as satellite imaging, flyovers and field visits.
This has shown up a change in the deforestation profile: Fewer areas of 100 hectares or more are being cleared – but there is an increase in smaller areas being cleared.
In order to tackle these, the GTS is changing its system for the new planting season, which starts in October, so it can include small deforestations. It will use a sampling system, and identify crops using remote sensory technology.
The GTS is also encouraging federal government to support state registration and licensing of rural producers, such as the Legal MT scheme launched by the Mato Grosso state government.
“For agribusiness to operate transparently in the Amazone Biome, the soy producer must register his property and the government must do its part,” said ABIOVE president Carol Lovatelli, who is employed by Bunge. “This is a fundamental step to give our customers a guarantee of the environmental quality of our product”.