Amazon study fuels soybean debate

6 May, 2010 by (comments)

A recently-published study by a team of scientists at CIAT and McGill University in Canada suggests that increased soybean production could be indirectly causing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.


Although the study, published last week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, makes no direct causal link between soy production and deforestation, it adds to a growing body of research into the so-called “displacement hypothesis”, the idea that soy production on former pastureland is shifting livestock production into new areas of the Amazon, resulting in the clearance of virgin rainforest for grazing.

The CIAT & McGill scientists studied land use change in the Amazon between 2000-2006. They found a statistical link between the rise of soy production and the decline in pasture areas in the southern Amazon, and the increase in pasture areas and deforestation further north, lending possible credence to the displacement hypothesis.

“The jury is still out on whether soy production is directly causing deforestation,” said Glenn Hyman, one of the study’s co-authors and a geographer for CIAT’s Decision and Policy Analyis (DAPA) Program. “Having said that, the growth of soybean in Brazil is so huge it’s clearly going to have some kind of an effect. We expect to resolve this issue with further research.

“At the very least, the study suggests that the Brazilian government will need to be prepared for inevitable trade-offs when it comes to tackling deforestation. It’s going to hurt cattle farmers or soy producers, or both, to some degree.”

To find out more about the study, the methodology involved and what some of the reports have been saying, see the following links:

The role of soybean and pasture in deforestation of the Brazilian AmazonBarona, Elizabeth, Navin Ramankutty,Glenn Hymanand Oliver Coomes. 2010. The role of pasture and soybean in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon.Environmental Research Letters 5 (April-June 2010).

See also Mongabay & Environmental Research Web.

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Filed Under: Latin America and the Caribbean, Regions