January 4, 2010
Source: E/The Environmental Magazine
The Amazon rainforest is facing a grave threat: soybeans. According to the Earth Policy Institute, world demand for soybeans has climbed from 17 million tons in 1950 to 250 million tons—more than 14-fold. “Soybeans are the second-ranking U.S. crop after corn,” they report, “and they totally dominate agriculture in both Brazil and Argentina.” Soy is used in everything from tofu to soy sauce to oil, but its primary use is as animal feed. To make room for more soybean crops, farmers are clearing deep into the Amazon rainforest—home to one of the most biodiverse animal and plant concentrations, where significant amounts of carbon are stored and where recycled rainfall provides water supplies for Brazil’s crops.
Of the potential fallout from clearing the rainforest for soybeans the Earth Policy Institute finds the release of carbon to be most worrisome. They write: “Continuing destruction of the Brazilian rainforest will release massive quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, helping to drive climate change.” The solution, they find, in part, is for consumers to “move down the food chain,” eating less meat, milk and eggs, since nearly 70% of harvested soybeans are used to feed livestock and poultry.
Image: The Amazon rainforest recycles rainfall that supplies water for Brazil’s crops.