Beef, soy­beans’ pro­duc­tion de­stroy­ing bio­di­ver­sity


The Daily News Egypt - - Science - By Lina Yassin

Fol­low­ing a dis­cus­sion held last week at the on­go­ing 14th Con­fer­ence of Par­ties (COP14), un­der the UN Con­ven­tion on Bio­di­ver­sity in Egypt, the out­come high­lighted the im­por­tance of achiev­ing the third tar­get of the Aichi tar­gets of the Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity (CBD). It stated that sub­si­dies and in­cen­tives which are harm­ful to bio­di­ver­sity must be phased out or re­formed by 2020.

The vast ma­jor­ity of de­for­esta­tion takes place be­cause of a few com­modi­ties that end up in con­sumer prod­ucts. Beef, soy­beans, palm oil, and wood pulp are four com­modi­ties in par­tic­u­lar that are key driv­ers of de­for­esta­tion.“Meat and soy are the top two con­trib­u­tors to de­for­esta­tion, we must elim­i­nate fi­nan­cial and other sup­port for these sec­tors,” stated Isis Al­varez, a Colom­bian bi­ol­o­gist and a Global For­est Coali­tion (GFC) mem­ber, a world­wide coali­tion of NGOs and indige­nous peo­ples’ or­gan­i­sa­tions from 60 dif­fer­ent coun­tries. She added “Par­ties are talk­ing about ‘in­vest­ing in bio­di­ver­sity’, but we need to talk about di­vest­ing from bio­di­ver­sity de­struc­tion.”

In some coun­tries, the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship has con­sis­tently demon­strated the coun­try’s in­ten­tion to favour the soy ex­port in­dus­try at the ex­pense of pub­lic wel­fare as in Ar­gentina, the third largest pro­ducer of soy­beans in the world, and the largest ex­porter of soy­bean meal and oil. Pres­i­dent Mauri­cio Macri, in his suc­cess­ful cam­paign in 2015, promised to re­duce taxes on agri­cul­tural ex­ports, thereby in­di­rectly sub­si­dis­ing un­sus­tain­able, mono­cul­ture soy pro­duc­tion, des­tined mostly for Euro­pean meat pro­duc­tion.

In Brazil, one of the coun­tries with the high­est de­for­esta­tion rates on the planet, the gov­ern­ment has made heavy in­vest­ments in the live­stock in­dus­try, mainly through the Brazil­ian De­vel­op­ment Bank (BNDES). Be­tween 2005 and 2015, the amount reached $3.18bn. No­tably, just three com­pa­nies re­ceived 90% of the sup­port, with one com­pany, JBS, re­ceiv­ing more than half of the sup­port. In 2017, $48bn went to agribusi­ness com­pa­nies in the form of cheap credit while only $115.6m was al­lo­cated to com­bat­ing de­for­esta­tion and for­est degra­da­tion. De­for­esta­tion in Brazil’s Ama­zon has also jumped by al­most 50% dur­ing the three months elec­toral sea­son that brought Jair Bol­sonaro to power, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary of­fi­cial fig­ures.

“In­ten­sive live­stock pro­duc­tion re­quires large quan­ti­ties of har­vested feed which, in re­turn, re­quires sub­stan­tial ar­eas of land while graz­ing an­i­mals such as cat­tle, which places ad­di­tional stress on the state of earth’s forests, es­pe­cially the Ama­zon.” says Al­varez.

Be­tween Au­gust and Oc­to­ber, nearly 1,674 skm—twice the side of NewYork City—of for­est was con­verted to pas­ture which in­creased the de­for­esta­tion rate up to 273%, while the rate stood at 114% dur­ing the same pe­riod last year.

In Paraguay, many live­stock and soy­bean farms were es­tab­lished through fraud and land-grab­bing at the ex­pense of the rights of peas­ant com­mu­ni­ties and indige­nous peo­ple. Cat­tle ranch­ing and soy mono­cul­tures re­sulted in dev­as­tat­ing de­for­esta­tion through­out the coun­try. Cur­rently, the Paraguayan Chaco is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the high­est rate of de­for­esta­tion in the world. In 2017, an av­er­age of 1,000 hectares per day were de­for­ested in this re­gion, “Much of the land for live­stock in Paraguay was ac­quired via land grab­bing, while wages paid by ranch­ing op­er­a­tions are a third of the na­tional min­i­mum wage.” says Miguel Lovera from GFC Paraguay.

Some al­ter­na­tives such as a rapid re­duc­tion in meat and dairy con­sump­tion and in­cen­tives for smallscale, lo­calised, and eco­log­i­cally sound food pro­duc­tion, as well as com­mu­nity con­ser­va­tion ini­tia­tives were also pro­posed to sup­port bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion in those coun­tries.



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