23 major retailers are supporting an end to deforestation in the Cerrado region of Brazil | Credit: Andreza Oliveira Borges
Over 20 major retailers – including Marks & Spencer, Unilever and McDonald’s – back plan to halt deforestation of Brazil’s tropical savanna, where land is being cleared for soy production
A host of major food retailers have joined forces with Prince Charles to pledge their support for the Cerrado Manifesto which aims to stop deforestation in one of Brazil’s most biodiverse regions.
The Cerrado region is a two million square kilometre stretch of tropical savannah in Brazil, and is home to around five per cent of the world’s biodiversity including 200 species of mammal, 10 unique bird species and more than 10,000 plant species, as well as acting as a vital carbon sink. However deforestation poses a major threat, as agricultural demand for soy and beef grows rapidly around the world.
Yesterday 23 major retailers and food groups, including Walmart, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Carrefour, McDonald’s, Nando’s, Nestle and L’Oreal, pledged their support to halt the deforestation at an event hosted by the Prince of Wales.
At the Lancaster House event in London Prince Charles warned tighter protections for tropical rainforests risks transferring the problem of deforestation to other vulnerable regions. “An increasing concern is the extent to which success in reducing agricultural expansion into forests comes at the expense of the destruction of other wonderful ecosystems such as the Cerrado, the Chaco and the world’s remaining savannahs,” Prince Charles said according to the Guardian.
Most agricultural areas in the Cerrado are used for soybean production, which is turned into animal feed for livestock, in particular chickens. Already the total agricultural area in the Cerrado has grown by 87 per cent between 2000 and 2014, mainly due to an expansion in soybean production and coming at the expense of forests and native vegetation.
The Cerrado Manifesto – which was first launched by campaign groups in September – calls on the private sector to adopt effective policies to eliminate deforestation and the destruction of native vegetation in the pursuit of intensive agricultural production.
Mike Barry, director of sustainable business at M&S, said yesterday’s pledge from the business community to support the aims of the manifesto will have a significant impact on supply chains in the region. “Twenty three businesses, that collectively have huge buying power, want to source deforestation-free soy and, by coming together in this way, are sending a significant message to the whole industry that such an important region must be protected,” he said.
Many NGOs and businesses want to see more action from the Brazilian government to protect the Cerrado. They argue that Brazil’s forest code currently offers little protection to the region, and stricter rules are needed to prevent the loss of native vegetation.
In the statement signed by businesses yesterdaym the firms argue that future development should only be allowed on land that has already been cleared and degraded. “It is increasingly clear that development need not be incompatible with the protection of globally important landscapes,” the statement concludes.
In related news, research released yesterday by WWF found that crop production caused the loss of 2.5 million acres of previously intact grasslands across the US and Canadian Great Plains in 2015 and 2016.
This is down one per cent on the previous year’s rate, but still represents a major threat to birdlife, insects and other animals, WWF warned. Meanwhile the conversion of grasslands also poses major threats to the stability of soil health and water quality in surrounding regions, WWF stressed.
“Grasslands ecosystems are under enormous pressure,” said Martha Kauffman, WWF’s managing director of the Northern Great Plains program. “Across the Great Plains, urban development and energy exploration are driving grassland loss, but conversion for cropland development is by far the leading contributor. We urge Congress, the Administration, and the private sector to protect these vital landscapes, and the rural communities and wildlife they support.”