Supermarkets and retailers have been asked to end relationships with soya traders who allegedly continue to buy soya from suppliers contributing to deforestation in Brazil.
It comes as an investigation by campaign group Mighty Earth alleges that suppliers selling to leading soya traders have deforested at least 27,000 hectares (67,000 acres) across 10 farms in the Cerrado region of Brazil since August 2020.
Some of the traders supply the UK, so soya harvested from this land could end up in meat supply chains for major supermarkets and retailers via animal feed given to farm animals.
This is despite a previous agreement in principle from retailers to end buying meat connected to the destruction of natural ecosystems – such as the Brazilian Cerrado – that occurred after August 2020.
With large swathes of land under threat from the production of soya, supermarket chains have been asked to take action and end longstanding relationships with soya traders who buy from firms responsible for the destruction.
The Brazilian Cerrado is known for its plant and animal biodiversity and has been described as the “biologically richest savannah in the world” by the World Wide Fund for Nature. It is home to approximately 12,000 plant species, as well as 850 species of bird – 30 of which are endemic to the region.
Campaigners say the majority (77%) of the world’s soya beans are used for feeding animals, including pigs and poultry.
The report said: “Supermarkets should … set up effective, fully transparent and cross-ecosystem soy monitoring and traceability systems for the Cerrado, Brazil and beyond.
“Although this analysis focuses primarily on the Cerrado savannah, a series of other reports show that the supermarkets also face significant risk of links to destruction of native habitat in other ecosystems that supply animal feed, including Brazil’s Pantanal, the Bolivian Amazon basin and Chiquitania, Paraguay’s Atlantic forest, and the Gran Chaco of Argentina and Paraguay.”
Campaigners from Mighty Earth have also written to supermarkets calling on them to require meat suppliers to “work towards a goal of selling at least 20% plant-based or alternative proteins” by 2030.
The scale of destruction in the Cerrado is vast, the report says, with the most severe case of known deforestation occurring within Condomínio Agrícola Estrondo in Bahía. Research appears to show that more than 15,000 hectares were cleared after the 2020 cut-off date.
One soya company allegedly cleared more than 1,180 hectares of vegetation in just one month.
The report said: “After years of failed efforts to nudge the soy companies to sever ties with suppliers engaged in deforestation, the time has come for major supermarkets to deliver on their promises, and deploy meaningful commercial consequences for non-compliance with their zero-deforestation pledges.”
The new findings from this investigation come seven months after Cargill was found to be buying soya and corn from a farm linked to deforestation in the Amazon, despite having pledged to clean up its global supply chains.
The Retail Soy Group (RSG) told the Guardian that the report raises “serious concerns” and that its members, which include UK supermarkets, “will be engaging the traders” to understand what actions will be taken.
“Mighty Earth’s report provides an additional reference point for understanding the progress companies are taking to transform their supply chains as part of new monitoring, reporting and verification systems that are being established through delivery partnerships in which companies made deforestation and land conversion commitments, like the UK Soy Manifesto and CGF Forest Positive Coalition,” said a RSG spokesperson.
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