Leading grain traders played a role in preventing a ban on soy from deforested areas.
According to a new report, Cargill and ADM, two of the top global companies in livestock feed, obstructed efforts to stop the trade of soya beans produced on deforested and endangered ecosystem lands in South America.
Soy is a highly affordable source of edible protein that is in high demand for animal feed worldwide. With the global increase in meat and dairy consumption, the demand for soy has also greatly increased.
However, the production of this commodity has been linked to deforestation in several vulnerable areas across the globe. In the past year, due to internal concerns and increased public awareness, 14 top grain traders collaborated to implement a prohibition on purchasing soybeans grown in these areas, such as the Amazon rainforest, the Pantanal wetlands, and the Cerrado savanna in Brazil. This information was reported by the traders.
According to the report, there was a proposed ban that would have applied a deadline of 2020 to buyers of soya. This ban was supposed to be announced at the UN Cop27 climate conference in Egypt last year. The purpose of the retroactive deadline was to prevent already harvested soya from threatened areas from being sold in global markets. It was also meant to avoid a rush to deforest in response to a future deadline.
However, rather than supporting the ban, Cargill and ADM advocated for less strict wording in the final statement, as stated by an individual involved in the discussions among the 14 grain traders prior to Cop27. The source commented that if Cargill or ADM had not taken this stance, the outcome would have been altered.
The Guardian interviewed multiple sources from the report who verified their statements, but requested to remain anonymous.
The companies’ signing of the soya agreement, which was part of the agriculture sector roadmap to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C by November 2022, was viewed as unsuccessful by numerous NGOs. A coalition of retailers, including Asda, Aldi, Lidl, M&S, and Tesco, expressed to Cargill and ADM that the agreement was lacking, contradictory, and insufficient.
Mighty Earth, a non-governmental organization that has previously labeled Cargill as “the worst company in the world”, released a new report stating that there has been a significant increase in soya land conversion in Brazil’s Cerrado region. This growth is primarily due to the expansion of soya production for animal feed, according to the CEO of Mighty Earth, Glenn Hurowitz. Hurowitz believes that if Cargill had agreed to a ban on this practice, other companies would have followed suit. This would have prevented the devastating destruction of forests and biomes in South America at such a rapid pace.
According to a report by Mighty Earth, two major commodity companies, Amaggi and Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), have pledged to support the soya ban initiative. The director of global agriculture at The Nature Conservancy, David Cleary, stated that these companies have stronger commitments than Cargill and ADM to stop sourcing soya from deforested and converted areas. The term “conversion” refers to the process of transforming threatened ecosystem lands into soya plantations, regardless of whether they were previously forested.
Inconsistencies have been found in Cargill’s stated positions on traceability through an investigation by Mighty Earth. On their website, Cargill claims that their supply chain for Brazilian soy is 100% traceable. However, an email from February 2022 revealed that Cargill believes it is nearly impossible to guarantee traceability for their Brazilian soy due to the mixing of beans from various sources at port silos.
The Guardian received an email from a European Commission representative discussing a meeting with Cargill. This email was obtained by Mighty Earth through freedom of information legislation.
When asked about the assertion, Cleary explained that Cargill may have been referring to a lack of tracking in their indirect soybean supply. According to him, this makes up around one-third of their overall supplies and is frequently used as a justification for not making traceability advancements. Cleary added that while tracing these indirect soy supplies may be challenging, it is not impossible, and is often used as an excuse by slower adopters.
Cleary, speaking from Brazil, stated that despite the complaints of “all the companies,” they are all making preparations, including Cargill, to comply with the EU’s newly implemented deforestation regulations. These regulations were introduced in June and have a compliance period of 18 months.
After the Guardian published an article, Cargill responded via email stating that the allegations made in the Mighty Earth report were incorrect. They claimed that they have traced all of their directly sourced volumes in Brazil back to their farm polygon map, which is considered the most advanced and comprehensive method for tracking the origins of the commodities they trade. The email also mentioned that Cargill was an early signatory of the Corporate Statement of Purpose, which was launched at COP26, and collaborated with the industry to create the Agriculture Sector Roadmap introduced at COP27.
The report states that Cargill has expressed their satisfaction in being one of the 14 companies that joined forces to tackle deforestation in important biomes and supply chains as a part of the Agriculture Sector Roadmap to 1.5C in November 2022. They also mentioned that as an industry, they have come to a consensus on all aspects of the roadmap as the most effective approach in safeguarding these crucial South American forest ecosystems.
ADM did not reply to the Guardian’s request for a statement, but a statement in the report notes that the roadmap participants collaborated well and are still doing so. ADM asserts the importance of taking action to prevent deforestation and conversion, citing their successful efforts in responsible sourcing and monitoring of supply chains. They claim to have achieved 100% traceability and 99% deforestation and conversion-free supply chains in Brazil, including the Cerrado region.
According to an unnamed individual involved in the discussions about the Cop27 ban on soya, the Mighty Earth report could be considered misleading as it suggests that there was a set goal and the traders failed to meet it. However, the source clarified that there were only “expectations” for a ban to be declared at Cop27, but this was not feasible due to the actions of the companies involved.