Consumers of beef and soy blamed for Brazilian deforestation

Brazilian RainforestThe world’s insatiable and increasing appetite for beef and soya products is driving rainforest deforestation in Brazil, according to a report released in the Environmental Research Letters journal, and it’s a serious threat which appears to be undermining international efforts to protect rainforests.

It’s a worldwide issue

The study connected CO2 emissions from Brazilian Amazon deforestation between 1990 to 2010 with the cultivation of soybeans and cattle grazing, then allocated emissions to various countries based on the amount of Brazilian soybeans and beef they consume. The results share the responsibility for the country’s deforestation between a number of global consumers, making it a worldwide issue rather than one faced exclusively by Brazil.

Brazil’s share of the responsibility

The research reveal 2.7 billion tonnes of CO2 was exported by Brazil, 29% of which relates to Soya production and 71% to cattle ranches. However Brazilian consumption is responsible for the largest share of emissions driven by domestic deforestation. Brazil’s own demand for the products has led to 85% of the emissions from their beef and 50% of those generated by their soya bean industry.

Why have the country’s CO2 emissions rocketed?

The past decade has seen an increase in in emerging markets and industrialised nations buying even more Brazilian beef and soy, which ultimately means more of the responsibility for the country’s deforestation can be allocated to consumers outside Brazil itself.

Russian and Chinese consumers figure large in the picture

Russia has fast become one of the world’s largest importers of Brazilian beef and related CO2 emissions, buying a massive 15% of the country’s exported beef in 2010. And China has been tipped as responsible for 22% of Brazil’s total soybean-linked emissions, up from just 7% in the year 2000. In fact Asia now consumes more Brazilian soybeans and beef than Europe.

Things were looking better. But the irony is that countries who demand more of Brazil’s agricultural products are undermining their own efforts to conserve Brazilian Amazon rainforests. As the co-author of the report, Robbie Andrew, says, “with increasing global pressure on Brazilian agriculture to increase production and changes to the Brazilian Forest Code, it seems unlikely that Brazilian deforestation rates will continue to decrease at the current rate without strengthening measures to protect the forests.” 

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