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Brazil delays controversial Amazon vote, after international pressure over soya

22nd May 2020 / By Alistair Driver

Brazil has delayed a controversial vote to legalise the private occupation of land in the Amazon rainforest, following international pressure, including an open letter from global food chain organsisations, signed by the NPA.

soyaThe NPA added its voice to the letter to the Brazilian Government, signed by a coalition of 40 food chain companies, including major UK retailers and foodservice chains, which threated to boycott soya imports from Brazil. 

The NPA is a member of the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya, which was established in 2018 to work together towards the secure, resilient, supply of deforestation-free sustainable soya to the UK. But this ambition appears to be threatened by the actions of the Brazilian Government, the NPA’s Lizzie Wilson said.

The letter describes the Amazon as one of the most vital landscapes on our planet, containing 30% of the world’s rainforest and home to 10% of all known species, while playing a critical role in regulating the global climate.

After last year’s widespread fires and destruction in the Amazon, the signatories to the letter said they wished to see a continuation of Brazil’s leadership on forest law and agreements like the Amazon Soy Moratorium, which ensures that soy production in the Amazon region only occurs on existing agricultural land.

“We know that we must ensure that protecting the Amazon is economically more attractive than destroying it, reflecting its true value to the world – and we want to work with all Brazilian stakeholders on this. What remains essential is that further destruction is halted,” the letter stated.

It expressed ‘deep concern’ about the measure submitted to the Brazilian congress for a vote, which would legalise the private occupation of public lands up to 2018, mostly concentrated in the Amazon.

“Should the measure pass, it would encourage further land grabbing and widespread deforestation which would jeopardise the survival of the Amazon and meeting the targets of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and undermine the rights of indigenous and traditional communities. We believe that it would also put at risk the ability of organisations such as ours to continue sourcing from Brazil in the future,” the letter said.

“We want to continue to source from and invest in Brazil and help ensure that protecting the Amazon can be economically productive for all. We urge the Brazilian government to reconsider its stance and hope to continue working with partners in Brazil to demonstrate that economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive.”

The letter made international headlines and, on Wednesday, the vote was pulled at the last minute today, Lizzie explained

“According, to the information I have received, it isn't clear where things stand and whether the vote was  pulled because of the international pressure or because the Bolsonaro regime wants to go even further,” she said.

“But this is certainly good news, at least in the short-term. As the representative body of the British pig sector, we will continue to campaign to ensure our soya is sourced sustainably.”

Soya use in the UK pig sector

  • It is estimated that the UK imports 3.2 million tonnes of soya bean equivalents annually, of which 68% is sourced from South America.
  • As of October 2019, and estimated 27% of soya consumed in the UK was covered by a deforestation and conversion free soya standard.
  • You can read Lizzie’s briefing on soya use in the pig sector here