There is indeed something called the Amazon rainforest that we might well want to preserve. There is also a certain hunger around the world for soya grown anywhere it can be. Part of that notorious Big Agriculture idea that even poor folks should be able to eat meat occasionally.
It’s even possible to ponder on whether folks are going to burn down the Amazon rainforest in order to then grow that soya.
At which point it does have to be said that it’s unlikely. Rainforest soils are notoriously thin and they really, really, do not take to the plough well. Which is why the traditional form of arable agriculture in those forests is slash and burn. Cut or burn a clearing, grow some runty corn for a season or three and then the land is abandoned – becoming secondary forest and then in time primary again – as being of no use to arable farming. More industrial techniques don’t change this basic soil factor. Sure, gaining the timber at the start can be profitable but it’s not land that you’d particularly want to clear to grow, say, soya.
On the other hand the next biome over is the cerrado – savannah when it’s at home – and that does make lovely arable land. There are some trees here but it’s not a rainforest. Some clearance is done but it ain’t that vision we’ve all got of tropical forest being slaughtered to feed a few pigs.
At which point the latest news from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:
Three of the world’s biggest food businesses have been accused of buying soya from a farmer linked to illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
Cargill, Bunge and Cofco sourced soya beans from the Chinese-owned Fiagril and the multinational Aliança Agrícola do Cerrado, both of which have allegedly been supplied by a farmer fined and sanctioned multiple times after destroying swathes of rainforest, according to a new investigation.
Soya beans are a key ingredient in poultry, pig and cattle feed, particularly for animals reared on intensive farms.
The fate of the Amazon is the subject of intense focus as world leaders scramble to agree on how to tackle the climate emergency. Research published in the academic journal Nature Climate Change last month found the area deforested in the Amazon almost quadrupled in 2019 – President Bolsonaro’s first year in power – compared with the year before.
The impression is definitely that it’s that rainforest which has been torn down, right? As the report itself says:
The Amazon rainforest is still being burnt to make way for soya to feed the world’s livestock, despite supposedly tough rules designed to prevent precisely this deforestation.
An investigation has uncovered how three of the world’s biggest food businesses have purchased soya from companies whose supply chains have been the subject of concerns over links to illegal deforestation and forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon.
We’re definitely being pushed to think that it’s the rainforest. That careful difference between “Amazon rainforest” and “Brazilian Amazon” is the issue here. For the cerrado can indeed be part of the Brazilian Amazon even as it’s not Amazon rainforest.
The actual areas being discussed:
based in the remote Marcelândia region of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state,
O município de Marcelândia está localizado no Ecótono Sul Amazônico, integrando a região
norte do estado de Mato Grosso. Tal ecótono é caracterizado por ser uma área de transição entre
as florestas úmidas da Amazônia e os cerrados do Brasil Central.O Projeto RADAMBRASIL fez
uma classificação detalhada para a cobertura vegetal desta região (DNPM/ RADAMBRASIL,
1980; IBGE, 1992), incluindo o Cerrado ou Savana, e a Floresta Estacional nos testemunhos
areníticos da Chapada do Cachimbo; a Floresta Ombrófila Densa nos aluviões recentes e solos
bem desenvolvidos; e a Floresta Ombrófila Aberta, nas depressões e quase sempre no relevo
Or perhaps more useful to us:
The municipality of Marcelândia is located in the Southern Amazon Ecotone, integrating the region
north of the state of Mato Grosso. Such an ecotone is characterized by being a transition area between
the humid forests of the Amazon and the savannahs of Central Brazil. The RADAMBRASIL Project made
a detailed classification for the vegetation cover of this region (DNPM / RADAMBRASIL,
1980; IBGE, 1992), including the Cerrado or Savana, and the Seasonal Forest in the testimonies
sandstones of Chapada do Cachimbo; the Dense Ombrophilous Forest in the recent alluviums and soils
well developed; and the Open Ombrophilous Forest, in the depressions and almost always in the relief
We seem to be talking about cerrado, don’t we? We have a little more detail:
“Florestal” is seasonal forest – deciduous maybe, but not rainforest. “Ombrofilia” is rainforest.
Florestal could also be described, as in the higher up description, as being the transitional form between open savannah and rain forest. But it really, really, ain’t rainforest.
All of which provides our answer to the first interesting questions here. Why is someone trying to clear rainforest land for soya when rainforest land isn’t good for soya? The answer is they’re not.
This does though leave us with our second question, why is the Bureau of Investigative Journalism telling us all it’s rainforest when it ain’t?
The probably answer being that they’re doing propaganda, not journalism……