Soya Moratorium Effective in Slowing Deforestation
January 28, 2015
For the past 30 years, the Amazon Rainforest has been ravaged by soy farmers as they cut deeper into the world’s most diverse, beautiful, and important biomes in an attempt to meet the demand from Brazilian soy traders (Greenpeace, 2015). The ever-increasing demand was driven by giant fast food chains, which used soy to feed their future McNuggets and Kentucky Friend Chicken Buckets (Green Peace, 2006). The growth of the soy market and the deforestation seemed unstoppable. Then in May 2006, Greenpeace released a report titled “Eating Up the Amazon” that detailed the excessive destruction of the Amazon Rainforest encouraged by these private businesses, such as Cargill. Aside from the effects the industry is having on the rainforest, it also described the land grabbing, slavery, and violent tactics they employed in the process (Greenpeace 2015). The report has a strong preservationist and green romanticism discourse, highlighted by powerful statements, such as, “McDonald’s mission… involves protecting the environment at both a local and global level… The preservation of tropical rain forest land is a top priority at McDonald’s” (Greenpeace. 2006). Due to this successful articulation of Green Romanticism, ecocentric ethics, and preservationist values by stakeholders, including environmental advocacy organizations, large businesses, and the media, the first voluntary soy moratorium was agreed upon by traders in the Amazon without the intervention of government or need for legislature. It is an exemplary case of supply-chain governance (ScienceMag 2015).
The Green Romantic framework is particularly appropriate for this case, for it emphasizes change coming from “the individual and his or her consciousness rather than on institutions,” such as the government (Smith, 2009). Individuals became inspired and called to action by “Eating Up the Amazon,” and were encouraged by Greenpeace to send e-mails and letters to the European headquarters of McDonald’s demanding that they halt sales of chicken that was fed on soy from deforested Amazon lands (Greenpeace, 2006). Individuals recognized that the current system that “[dominates] nature” is “fundamentally wrong,” and this exploitation “is nothing short of rape” (Smith, 30). This notion of obtaining something through immoral or unethical means, like rape, is additionally highlighted through the illegal land-grabbing practices that corporations, such as Cargill, employed to acquire land at its cheapest, or often for free, by means of intimidation and violence (ScienceMag, 2009). Brazil is not running out of agricultural land, but traders would simply rather steal Amazon rainforest lands than pay for legal farmland (Greenpeace, 2008).
Both the Green Romantic framework and “Eating Up the Amazon” call for an ecocentric philosophy that “recognizes all life has equal value and a potential beyond human utility” (Smith 30). Preserving the biome is not only imperative for the sake of establishing the intrinsic value of nature, but for combatting climate change as well. By simply existing, the rain forest provides irreplaceable services to humans and the entirety of life on Earth by regulating air quality through absorbing carbon emissions and releasing oxygen, maintaining the climate and global temperatures, cycling nutrients and soil, and making rain (Fenton 2012). According to the ecocentric ethic, we are all one ecosystem, where drastic changes in one region can have grave consequences on other regions and the species living within them (Merchant 1992). We, as humans, are then morally obliged to protect and advocate for the species and landscapes who do not have a voice to protect themselves. This case exemplifies that a discourse and strategy based in ecocentrism, preservationism, and green romanticism can be just as, if not more, successful than rewarding economic incentives or heavy-handed government legislature at persuading corporations to do the right thing for the planet. The solution has proved to be so effective that it has seen the amount of land deforested due to soy expansion decrease from 30% to about 1% in six short years. (Greenpeace, 2015) This reduction, along multiple agreements on the extension of the moratorium, has sparked multiple conversations about similar agreements in the palm oil, beef, and timber industries (Greenpeace, 2015).
ENN. 2015. “Success! Private Sector Soy Moratorium Effective in Reducing Deforestation in the Amazon.” January 23. http://www.enn.com/ecosy stems/article/48205 (accessed January 26, 2015).
Greenpeace. 2008. “Landmark Amazon Soy Moratorium Extended.” June 17. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/news-and-blogs/news/landmark-amazon- soya-moratoriu/ (accessed January 26, 2015).
Greenpeace. 2006. “McVictory: Victory as Fast Food Giant Pledges to Help Protect the Amazon.” July 25. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/ McVictory-200706/ (accessed January 26, 2015).
Fenton, Loulia. 2012. “Five Rainforest Ecosystem Services That Nourish People and the Planet.” November 14. http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/five- rainforest-ecosystem-services-that-nourish-people-and-the-planet/ (January 29, 2015).
Merchant, Carolyn. 1992. “Environmental Ethics and Political Conflict” Radical Ecology: the search for a livable world. New York: Routledge (63-87).
ScienceMag. 2015. “Brazil’s Soy Moratorium.” January 23. http://www.sciencemag.org /content/347/6220/377.summary?rss=1 (accessed January 26, 2015).
Smith, Zachary. 2009. “Public Opinion and the Environment.” The Environmental Policy Paradox. New Jersey: Pearson (26-31).
About Kacey Merlini
I am a sophomore Environmental Social Science major at Davidson College particularly focusing on the political, economic, and social impacts of renewable energy systems and food policy. I also play lacrosse at Davidson, and in my free time I enjoy spending time outdoors and photography.