Soy farms are driving massive forest destruction in South America

Creative Commons: Scott Robinson

According to a report by watchdog NGO, Mighty Earth, areas larger than 10,000 American football fields are being cleared in the Bolivia and Brazil forests to make room for soybean production. Much of the soy produced often ends up feeding cattle for cheap and concentrated beef production, as well as consumer soy products.

The findings in Mighty Earth’s recent report that proves two major agricultural companies — Bunge and Cargill – are responsible for clearing 2,700 square miles between 2011 and 2015 in the Cerrado of Brazil. Bunge has disputed the findings.

Mighty Earth is echoing calls by environmentalists for companies like Cargill and Bunge to shift their soybean production to already degraded or deforested land.

“It is completely unnecessary to clear new areas of native vegetation to increase soy production,” said Anahita Yousefi, campaign director at the Washington, D.C.-based Mighty Earth.

According to Yousefi, Cargill and Bunge have publicly stated they are looking to remove deforestation from their soybean supply.

“We were very surprised to see that [these companies] haven’t taken this more seriously,” Yousefi said.

Cargill denied claims of deforesting the Bolivian Amazon. But in interviews with farm workers at deforested sites, indicated that was a customer of the goods raised on deforested lands. Both Bunge and Cargill were found to buy beans from clear-cut lands in Central Brazil, according to the report.

Land clearing for agriculture is a major cause of climate change, accounting for approximately 4 billion tons of CO2 per year, more than 10% of total global carbon emissions. Due to complex supply chains, often the primary buyers of deforestation crops are hidden from view, which means that consumers are usually unable to tell which products are contributing to deforestation.

Fortunately, a movement toward supply chain transparency is sweeping the consumer goods sector. Within a few years, transparency platforms like will enable NGOs, governments, and individuals to discover which companies are in fact driving deforestation.

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Last updated June 29, 2017

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