Amazon destruction for Soya halted - for now

Feature story - 2 April, 2008
Despite a recent increase in deforestation in the Amazon, there is a glimmer of hope that the destruction can be halted.

A huge area of 1645 hectares in Gleba do Pacoval, 100km from Santarem, Amazon, illegally logged to clear land for soya plantations.

In 2006, we joined forces with the local community in Santarém, Brazil, to exposed the role of soya farming in the destruction of the Amazon.

Soon after, the Brazilian soya traders, in concert with Greenpeace and McDonald's, announced a landmark moratorium on the purchase of soya grown on newly deforested land.

As part of the moratorium, the soya traders, which combined account for 90 percent of all Brazilian soya exports, agreed not to buy any soya grown on newly deforested land for a period of two years.

A system of monitoring newly deforested areas is being put in place to ensure compliance with the historic agreement.

The first field evaluation has now been completed and it shows that the soya produced last year in the Brazilian Amazon has not come from newly deforested areas. In other words, the moratorium is holding well, despite the pressure from rising soya prices.

This is in stark contrast to the recent news that after three years of decline, Amazon deforestation rates doubled to a new record level in the second half of last year compared to the same period the year before.

Monitoring was carried out using data supplied from the National Institute for Spatial Research (PRODES). Newly deforested areas larger than 100 hectares (250 acres) were examined in the states of Rondônia, Pará and Mato Grosso, which together account for almost all the soya plantations in the Brazilian Amazon.

The current moratorium ends in July this year. Greenpeace carried out its own aerial survey of some of the areas covered by PRODES and while we confirmed the results it also showed that some recent deforestation can be found in areas owned by soya farmers: raising the concern that the destruction of the Amazon for soya could begin all over again if the moratorium is not extended in time.

"The challenge now faced by the trading companies is how they can reinforce their commitment to the moratorium on deforestation and help the Brazilian authorities and civil society to put an end to the destruction of the forests on which everyone's livelihood depends at a time when higher soya prices are stimulating farmers to increase their plantations", said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Coordinator.

Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, causing about 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil is the world's 4th largest contributor to global warming, mainly due to deforestation and land clearing in the Amazon.

It is vital that the moratorium is now extended, as it is a key component in protecting the Amazon and combating climate change.

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