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Investigative report uncovers how 'dirty' soybeans enter supply chain

Investigative report uncovers how 'dirty' soybeans enter supply chain
It was illegal to burn swaths of the rainforest after 2008 to make room to grow soybean crops. File Photo courtesy of Pixabay

May 19 (UPI) -- Farmers have illegally cleared swaths of the Amazon rainforest for years to grow soybeans that have made their way into so-called "clean" supply food chains throughout the word, an investigative report released Wednesday indicates.

The report -- a collaboration by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Greenpeace's Unearthed journalism project and Repórter Brasil -- accused three major food companies of purchasing the soybeans and benefitting from illegal deforestation.

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The investigation found that Chinese-owned Fiagril and multinational company Aliança Agrícola do Cerrado purchased soybeans from a Brazilian farmer who has been punished multiple times for burning down rainforest to make room to grow the crops. Three of the largest food companies -- Cargill, Bunge and Cofco -- then sourced the soybeans from the two businesses.

The report said Fiagril and Aliança have exported millions of tons of soybeans to countries around the world, including China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain. The crop is often used in livestock feed.

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"Deforestation of the Amazon has potentially dire environmental consequences for climate and biodiversity, with experts fearing the habitat might soon cross a point of no return," the report said. "Recent research suggests some parts now emit more carbon than they absorb."

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The findings show how soybeans grown on illegally deforested land in the Amazon could enter the so-called "clean" international supply chains, despite a promise by major agribusinesses to only purchase the crop from areas in the Amazon deforested prior to 2008.

"Traders continue to make claims regarding sustainable soy while simultaneously turning a blind eye to suppliers like these that illegally deforest and set fires. And their customers continue to purchase from them," said Sarah Lake, a representative from Mighty Earth, an environmental group.

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In December, a forecast published in the journal Environment, said the Amazon, the world's largest ecosystem, will collapse and largely become a dry, scrubby plain by 2064 because of climate change and deforestation.

Robert Walker, a University of Florida professor who wrote the report, told UPI that poverty and poor use of government resources ultimately drives much of the deforestation.

"The people there, they don't worry so much about biodiversity, the environment, when they have to worry about eating their next meal," he said.

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The Amazon covers about 2.7 million square miles, a little less than the lower 48 U.S. states. But it has shrunk by about 20 percent since intense development began.

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