Knowledge for better food systems

Zero deforestation soy neglects Brazilian Cerrado

In this paper, FCRN member Erasmus zu Ermgassen finds that voluntary zero deforestation commitments (ZDCs) cover more than 90% of the soy exported from the Brazilian Amazon, but only 47% of soy exported from the Brazilian Cerrado biome (a type of wooded savannah). 

The figure below shows that soy-related deforestation in the Amazon decreased after the 2006 introduction of the Soy Moratorium (for more on the Soy Moratorium, see the Foodsource building block Soy: food, feed, and land use change), although it has been rising since then. Overall soy exports from the Cerrado are much higher than from the Amazon, and have only recently begun to be covered by ZDCs. Most soy exported from the Cerrado is still not covered by a ZDC. 

Image: Figure 2, zu Ermgassen et al. The coverage of ZDCs is higher in the Amazon, where the Soy Moratorium applies, than in the Cerrado, where it does not.


Zero deforestation commitments (ZDCs) are voluntary initiatives where companies or countries pledge to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. These commitments offer much promise for sustainable commodity production, but are undermined by a lack of transparency about their coverage and impacts. Here, using state-of-the-art supply chain data, we introduce an approach to evaluate the impact of ZDCs, linking traders and international markets to commodity-associated deforestation in the sub-national jurisdictions from which they source. We focus on the Brazilian soy sector, where we find that ZDC coverage is increasing, but under-represents the Cerrado biome where most soy-associated deforestation currently takes place. Though soy-associated deforestation declined in the Amazon after the introduction of the Soy Moratorium, we observe no change in the exposure of companies or countries adopting ZDCs to soy-associated deforestation in the Cerrado. We further assess the formulation and implementation of these ZDCs and identify several systematic weaknesses that must be addressed to increase the likelihood that they achieve meaningful reductions in deforestation in future. As the 2020 deadline for several of these commitments approaches, our approach can provide independent monitoring of progress toward the goal of ending commodity-associated deforestation.



zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., Ayre, B., Godar, J., Lima, M.G.B., Bauch, S., Garrett, R., Green, J., Lathuillière, M.J., Löfgren, P., MacFarquhar, C. and Meyfroidt, P., 2019. Using supply chain data to monitor zero deforestation commitments: an assessment of progress in the Brazilian soy sector. Environmental Research Letters, 15 035003.

Read the full paper here. See also the Foodsource building block Soy: food, feed, and land use change.

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Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean occupies the central and southern portion of the Americas. The region is home to the world’s largest river (the Amazon River), the largest rainforest (the Amazon Rainforest), and the longest mountain range (the Andes). Export-oriented agriculture constitutes an important part of the economy, especially in Brazil and Argentina. This large continent has a range of climates spanning the ice of Patagonia, the tropical forests of much of the continent, and more temperate regions in, for example, Mexico and Chile. Due to the greatly differing geography and economic development in the continent, all types of agriculture can be found in Latin America. Subsistence farming and cash cropping with coffee, cocoa and so on are common in many nations including most of central America, whereas large-scale beef production in the cerrado of Brazil provides an example of hyper-large farms run by large businesses.

View articles relating to South America


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