A survey combining satellite data with field observations shows evidence of a direct link between illegal deforestation in the Amazon and the supply of soybeans shipped from Brazil to the UK.
By Tom Clarke, science and technology writer @aTomClarke
Thursday, April 13, 2023 1:16 a.m., United Kingdom
The UK meat industry and the supermarkets it supplies continue to cause illegal deforestation in the Amazon, according to a new investigation into the supply chain of Brazilian soybeans used to feed UK livestock.
Clearing land for livestock and soybeans is a key driver of Deforestation in the Amazon.
In 2022, almost 12,000 square kilometers of the Amazon have been destroyed, the equivalent of four football fields of forest lost every second.
But connecting the dots between destruction and consumers thousands of miles away is obscured by the complex supply chains that make up our global food industry.
The investigation by environmental groups Mighty Earth, Reporter Brazil and Ecostorm combines satellite data with field observations showing evidence of a direct link between illegal deforestation in the Amazon and supplies of soybeans being shipped from Brazil to the United Kingdom by the American commodities giant Cargill.
“If Cargill, America’s largest private company, wants to be part of the solution to the climate and nature crisis, it must source from suppliers who farm on previously degraded land, of which there are 1.6 billion acres in Latin America alone. . Not from those who are still burning forests,” said Glenn Hurowitz, CEO of Mighty Earth.
The report identifies the Santa Ana farm in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso on which 400 hectares of forest were burned last year – an area that researchers say contained 220,000 trees.
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The farm supplies soybeans to Cargill, which exports the beans through the Brazilian port of Santarem around the world, including directly to the UK.
Following an investigation by Brazilian authorities into previous illegal deforestation of the farm, Cargill removed it from its list of approved suppliers, but it was reinstated by the company in 2022.
About 70% of UK soy is imported by Cargill and 75% of Cargill’s soy enters the country from the port of Santarem in Brazil.
Soy is a key ingredient in animal feed, especially for intensively farmed chickens and pigs. Once the soybeans are shipped to feed mills, it becomes almost impossible to trace anything that might be linked to illegal deforestation.
However, one of the UK producers most exposed to Brazilian soy is Avara Foods – the UK’s largest chicken producer, which is partly owned and supplied by Cargill.
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Avara produces 4.5 million chickens and turkeys a week in the UK.
Avara supplies many leading supermarkets and suppliers including Tesco, Asda, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, McDonald’s, KFC and Nando’s.
This latest report names Tesco as the UK’s largest supermarket chain whose own-brand chicken is supplied by Avara.
“Our investigation shows that Tesco is a problem basket for the Amazon,” said Gemma Hoskins, UK director of Mighty Earth.
“While the UK’s largest retailer makes huge profits, it continues to do business with notorious forest destroyers such as Cargill, adding fuel to the flames of Amazon deforestation, harming the health of communities. and decimating valuable wildlife and habitats.”
UK food retailers like Tesco are signatories to the UK Soy Manifesto which committed them to ensuring their supply chains were ‘free of deforestation and conversion’ by 2020, with an additional commitment to stop sourcing from suppliers linked to deforestation or land conversion by 2025.
In a statement, Tesco told Sky News: “We take very seriously any accusations of deforestation and conversion occurring anywhere in our supply chain and have immediately sought clarification from Cargill on the matter and to remove identified farm from its supply chain until a full investigation can be carried away.”
Chicken farmer Avara said it has been sourcing soy certified “without deforestation or conversion” since 2019.
“Obviously the challenge is that there are still uncertified farms growing soybeans in high-risk areas and demand for their products,” he said in a statement.
He added: “We accept that, despite all our progress, there is still work to be done if we are to meet our 2025 target. We will play our part, working in collaboration with others in the sector and beyond. , but we also know that it will not be enough, if others do not also make similar commitments.”
Cargill, which has previously faced criticism for sourcing soy from areas linked to deforestation in the Amazon and other parts of South America, said: “Based on new allegations, in accordance with our grievance procedure, we have opened an additional investigation into [Santa Ana Farm’s] 2022 and if we find violations of our policies and commitments, the supplier will be immediately blocked from our supply chain, as outlined in our Supplier Code of Conduct.”
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