More than 80 retailers, trade associations and investors have called on the Brazilian government to end soy-related deforestation.
Firms including Tesco, Waitrose and Mars were among the signatories of an open letter which urged the government to ensure that soy production in the Amazon region only occurs on existing converted agricultural land and not through deforestation of native plants.
Brazil is one of the world’s largest soy producers. The commodity is mainly used in animal feed and for products such as soy milk and tofu.
The letter called for the extension of the Amazon Soy Moratorium (ASM), agreed in 2006, which was established to ensure that soy production in the Amazon region only occurs on existing agricultural land.
“Since then, soy production in the Amazon has increased 400%, showing that forest protection and agricultural expansion can be compatible,” the letter said.
However last month, Brazilian farmers told Reuters they would be launching a campaign to end a ban on buying soybeans from parts of the Amazon rainforest cleared after 2008, citing support from president Jair Bolsonaro.
The letter continued: “Deforestation in the Amazon from other causes (mostly cattle ranching) has continued to grow. Brazilian government data recently published shows that, since 2012, it has increased from 460,000 hectares to almost 1m in the last year.
“These deeply concerning figures reinforce the importance of continuing to uphold the ASM. Yet some parties are now questioning whether it should continue,” it said.
“We want to be able to continue to source from, or invest in, the Brazilian soy industry but if the ASM is not maintained, this will risk our business with Brazilian soy.
“Today, there is enough existing agricultural land to continue to increase soy production in the Amazon by an additional 600% compared to current figures.”
The UK’s National Pig Association (NPA) is one of the signatories. NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson said: “It is increasingly important that soy is supplied from sustainable sources, which is why we have put our names to this letter.
“The UK pig sector and supply chain takes the issue very seriously. We maintain a close interest in it through the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya, which is working to ensure sourcing of soya is sustainable and also looking at the feasibility of alternative sources of protein for pig feed.”
Earlier this year, UK farmers who provide meat products to Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Asda and Morrisons were found to be using animal feed containing Argentinian soya linked to deforestation.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.