Green and desert are two words that usually don’t go together, but in the case of modern soy production, nothing describes it better. Imagine endless fields of a single crop with virtually no other plants or animals and barely any insects. If this is too big of a horror for your imagination to handle, see it for yourself in this short documentary.
The soy is produced on the extremely fertile soil left from the forests. That soil formed over millions of years and without the protection of forest, the rain washes away the nutrients extremely fast. The industry turns a huge short term profit and when eventually the soil becomes unproductive for cultivation, the farmers push deeper into the forest and clear new areas. Biodiversity is rapidly declining and this massive deforestation is a leading cause for climate change.
What drives this huge production of soy?
Obviously this increase is linked to an increased consumers’ demand. In the last 50 years, the production of soy has grown from 27 to 269 million tons. When we hear soy, most of us think about soy sauce, tofu or soy milk. So, is the rising number of protein hungry vegetarians and vegans behind this ? Actually, merely 6% of soybeans are eaten directly by humans, mainly in Asian countries. Tree-quarters of the soy is fed to livestock, the rest is used to produce fuel.
Over the last few decades, vast areas of forest, grassland and savannah have been converted to soy monoculture. The area of land in South America devoted to soy increased from 17 million ha in 1990 to 46 million ha in 2010, mainly on land converted from natural ecosystems. This increase of production came at a very high price – some of the most bio-diverse forests, savannahs and grasslands are threatened /the Amazon, the Cerrado, the Atlantic forest, the Gran Chaco, the Chiquitano/.
How can YOU help ?
Better agricultural practices and some tougher regulations are already in place, but with the ever rising population and consumer demand we can’t hope to feed the world on meat diet for very long. Actually even today, thousands of people are dying from starvation each day, while we’re already producing enough food to feed 11 billion people on a healthy diet. The problem is that we’re giving all that food to our ever expanding livestock.
When you make the conscious choice of eating fewer or no animal products you’re having an even greater impact than simply polluting less and wasting less resources. The choices that we make in our daily lives influence directly the people around us. For example, when you decide to cook a delicious meatless dish for your family or friends you’re spreading the message in one of the most effective ways. A lot of people don’t feel like giving up meat, because they are not used to eat vegetarian dishes and expect that they won’t like them. This example might look trivial, but it’s the small changes in our habits that end up influencing culture on a big scale. The future of the whole biosphere depends on our ability to adapt and this cultural shift can only start at a personal level.