The Soy Moratorium: 10 years of progress in sustainable production in Brazil

October 18, 2016

This year, Cargill and its partners are celebrating a major success in sustainable soybean production. Ten years ago, the Brazilian Soy Moratorium brought together businesses, associations, NGOs, and the Brazilian government with the unprecedented commitment to voluntarily refrain from farming soybeans in deforested areas of the Amazon biome. 

The discussion started as advocacy groups cautioned that soy was one of the causes behind deforestation in the Amazon region. Despite the concerns about deforestation, accurate data and information to gauge the extent of soybean farming’s contribution to the problem was lacking. 

Cargill had been exploring this issue since 2004 when it partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to encourage best practices among local farmers. But something more was required, namely a joint commitment of all parties involved.

infographic-soy-moratoriumIn response, the private sector, civil society and the federal government, represented by the Environment Ministry and Banco do Brasil, joined to form the Soya Working Group. This group used satellite imaging to improve monitoring of soybean farming in the Amazon biome. Using more precise and accurate information gave businesses the ability to ensure that their suppliers were sourcing soybeans from deforestation-free areas. 

Meanwhile, the Brazilian government began implementing steps to improve land use regulations and reduce deforestation. In 2009, it created a joint task force in charge of inspection, combining the Environment Ministry, law enforcement agencies and state environmental authorities. In 2012, the government enacted a new Brazilian Forest Code, introducing two important instruments: the Rural Environmental Registry and the Environmental Compliance Program.

In partnership with these and other stakeholders, Cargill has continued to lead the private sector in sourcing soy sustainably. In 2014, Cargill signed the New York Declaration on Forests, committing to halve deforestation by 2020 and end it by 2030. Last year, it built on that pledge by issuing a global Policy on Forests, a document that provides guidelines for company practices throughout its supply chains.

The Soy Moratorium has contributed to a dramatic drop in deforestation in the region: the annual rate of deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon region has decreased by nearly 80 percent. It demonstrates the value of multistakeholder collaboration and shows how sustainable agribusiness is necessary to nourish the world and protect the planet.