Amazon Soy Moratorium extended until 2010

New challenges mark the renewal of the business sector-NGO partnership

Feature story - July 28, 2009
Greenpeace is pleased to announce that the Amazon Soy Moratorium has officially been renewed until July 2010. The business sector connected to soy processing and export in Brazil, represented by two trade groups — the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (ABIOVE) and the National Association of Grain Exporters (ANEC) — made the announcement along with Greenpeace, the Brazilian Minister of the Environment, and various other NGOs in a joint press conference today. The Soy Moratorium is a commitment not to trade soy from areas in the Amazon Biome that were deforested after July 24, 2006.Approximately 100 km (62 mi) above Manaus, in Brazil's Amazonas state, the Anavilhanas is the largest river archipelago in the world with over 400 islands. © Greenpeace / Daniel Beltrá

Originally an initiative of the private sector and civil society, the Moratorium received the support of the Minister of the Environment, Carlos Minc, who formally joined the initiative last year. Thanks to the Soy Moratorium, soy is no longer the chief driver of Amazon deforestation. That distinction belongs to cattle ranching, which is responsible for 80% of deforestation in the Amazon. Greenpeace is calling for a cattle moratorium to match the achievements of the Soy Moratorium in protecting the Amazon rainforest.

The Soy Working Group says Soy Moratorium has made a difference, but still very much necessary.

Created in 2006 to implement the Moratorium, the Soy Working Group (GTS), which is made up of representatives from industry and various NGOs, including Greenpeace, believes that the initiative has made an important contribution to the reduction of the Amazon's annual deforestation rate. According to the GTS, in the three years since the Moratorium was established, concrete advances have been made, such as the creation of a monitoring system based on satellite images and flyovers and field visits that allow companies to identify properties that are not complying with the Moratorium, thereby allowing them to be removed from the ABIOVE and ANEC supplier lists.

Nevertheless, the GTS also says that the Amazon Biome governance conditions are not yet sufficient to allow a suspension of the Moratorium.

Data on last year's forest canopy loss in the Amazon compiled by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which provides satellite mapping data, indicate that the deforestation profile is changing, with an increase in the number of deforested areas of less than 100 hectares (about 247 acres). The data also show a significant drop in deforestation of larger areas - precisely those directly monitored by the GTS.  

Therefore, the monitoring system has to be changed to include small deforestations in the analysis of next year's crop, whose planting starts in October.  The GTS intends to adopt a sampling system, using remote sensory technology to identify crops through satellite images of adequate spatial resolution. This technological advance should make it possible to preselect properties for field visits, so that a significant number of deforestations in the Amazon can be monitored in 2009/2010.

Soy Moratorium extended to 2010

Prior to the Soy Moratorium, large swaths of Amazon were clearcut for soy plantations, while tiny islands of intact rainforest such as this one were left behind to meet lax government standards. © Greenpeace

Registration of properties a priority

According to ABIOVE's President, Carlo Lovatelli, the industry's GTS coordinator, one of the main priorities will be to encourage registration and environmental licensing of rural properties. Registration creates records of the property's exact location and identification of the owner, and also allows better monitoring of the property's Legal Reserve and Permanent Preservation (APP) areas. ABIOVE's member companies will promote orientation and awareness campaigns among rural producers in harmony with state government efforts, such as the "Legal MT" program recently launched by the Mato Grosso state government. At the same time, the GTS will encourage the federal government to support a better structure for the state organizations responsible for registration and licensing.

"For agribusiness to operate transparently in the Amazon Biome, the soy producer must register his property and the government must do its part. This is a fundamental step to give our customers a guarantee of the environmental quality of our product," Lovatelli said.

The Soy Moratorium in Copenhagen

The GTS plans to report the Moratorium case in a parallel session to the U.N.'s Convention on Climatic Changes, which will be held in Copenhagen in December. The objective is to show that corporate responsibility measures, such as the Soy Moratorium, can contribute positively to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Initiatives such as these need the international community's support, through adoption of financial mechanisms that allow support for forest and climate conservation without damaging food production," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace's Amazon Campaign Director and the civil society's coordinator in the GTS. "In addition to increasing the government's institutional capacity for monitoring and conservation, new money is needed on the table so that local communities and rural producers can produce without cutting down the forest."

ABIOVE's Lovatelli echoes this assertion: "Payment for environmental services will be a big incentive for the rural producer not to deforest. The industry hopes that, in Copenhagen, governments from different countries assume this commitment."