A study published by Science magazine on July 16 indicated that a fifth of Brazilian soy imports received by the European Union may come from land that has been illegally deforested.
According to the study’s co-author, Raoni Rajão, an environmental specialist at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), the research also opens the way for both international companies and Brazilian authorities to identify agricultural areas that violate deforestation rules in the Amazon.
“Brazil has the means to develop a large government-led monitoring system, capable of freeing supply chains from deforestation,” said Rajão. “Before, technical means were not available, but now we have developed those means.”
In their work, Rajão and other researchers analyzed deforestation in the Amazon and the Cerrado from 2008, when the current forest law came into force, before which farmers who respected certain conditions received amnesty for the previous cutting of trees. The team also found that 17% of beef exports from Brazil to Europe are related to deforestation.
However, there are only a few “rotten apples” in the meat and soy supply chains, with only 2% of farms causing 62% of illegal deforestation in the analyzed area. The study did not specify the companies or farms involved in the deforestation activities.
The work considered only Brazilian exports to the European Union. Rajão said the researchers focused on the EU in part because of the recent trade agreement made between the European trading bloc and Mercosur which, if ratified, would expand agricultural trade in both directions.
It is worth noting that deforestation in the Amazon reached its highest level in 11 years in 2019, with the destruction of an area the size of Lebanon, according to government data. In the first six months of 2020, there was an increase of 25% over the previous year, according to preliminary information.