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European food giants to shun illegal Amazon soy

By staff reporter , 24-Jul-2006

Europe's leading food manufacturers and retailers are expected to announce they plan to shun soy grown illegally in the Amazon that is resulting in depletion of the rainforest.

Reports in the Guardian newspaper suggest that the companies, which include Tesco, McDonald's Sainsbury, Asda, Morrison and Unilever, will not deal with four soy traders unless the companies can prove the legality of the soy sources.

The deal has reportedly been negotiated by Greenpeace who has been keeping up the pressure on Cargill since the publication of a report earlier this year that reported that soy from illegal plantations was being sold to European countries.

Greenpeace alleges that soy firms, including Cargill and ADM, have been encouraging local farmers to cut down the rainforest and plant massive soy monocultures.

The soy is then shipped to Europe, where it is fed to animals that are then turned into fast food products like chicken nuggets. The pressure group claims that last year more than 25,000 sq kilometres (10,000 sq miles) of Amazon forest were felled, largely for soy farming.

The Greenpeace allegations, said to be based on a year-long investigation using satellite images, aerial surveillance and previously unreleased government documents, appear to have resonated within the growing ethical consumer sector.

And this in turn has spurred leading retailers and food manufacturers to act on the issue.

Dale Atkinson from the British Retail Council, which represents the big supermarkets, told FoodNavigator: "We have been in discussions to get a traceability standard put in place to know where the soy is coming from so that retailers can identify soy that is coming from areas that are contributing to depletion of the Amazonian rainforest."

Atkinson also praised the retailers for their swift and "fantastic" response to the concerns that were raised by Greenpeace and consumers in relation to the source of the soy.

Cargill had not responded to questions from FoodNavigator prior to publication, but a company spokeswoman is quoted in the Guardian as saying that the company could not comment before the announcement was made.

Cargill released a statement when the allegations were first made in April, saying that the company is committed to responsible economic development, which "enables responsible environmental management over time."

"In Brazil, as in all other countries where we operate, we take our corporate responsibilities very seriously."

Soy has become a major source of vegetable oil and protein, satisfying the ever-growing need of a mushrooming world population and plugging rising demand for animal feed.

Brazil has seen substantial expansion in this sector in recent years, driven by domestic growth and the opening up of the Chinese economy.

It has become the second largest soybean producer, after the US, providing more than 30 per cent of the world's crop - an estimated 57.4m tonnes in the 2005-06 period alone.

Greenpeace claims that last year more than 25,000 sq kilometres (10,000 sq miles) of Amazon forest were felled, largely for soy farming.

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