While beef itself causes massive deforestation, the process to produce the soy that cattle, poultry and other animals raised for human consumption eat creates additional problems that the beef industry doesn’t. The soybean industry took off in the early 1990’s with the creation of a new type of soybean that would be suitable to grow in the tropical region of the Amazon rainforest area. Since then, soybean production has only increased to feed the ever growing cattle and poultry industries in Brazil and all around the world. Soybean production doesn’t cause the same large-scale deforestation that the cattle industry produces, but over the last two decades, soybean farming has directly caused the clear cutting of 21 million hectares which is about 81081.45 square miles or about one and a half million football fields.
Beyond just simply clear-cutting forests, soybean production has many other negative effects on both local and global environments. One of the biggest dangers is from chemical runoff from pesticides and agrochemicals. This runoff can pollute fresh and groundwater and have large scale effects on the diverse wildlife of the Amazon, primarily animals living in and around rivers and streams. These pesticides can have disastrous effects on the forest biome as researcher Luis Schiesari of the University of São Paulo told Mongabay.com, “Pesticides are products deliberately designed to reduce organismal growth, development, reproduction and survival and as such have a potentially broad range of lethal and sublethal effects of concern.” Understandably, pesticides intended to kill living things other than the select crop they’re used on can have wide-ranging effects including mutation and death in animals and even plants that come into contact with them. In areas of high rainfall like the rainforest, runoff can happen all too frequently, and the problem is compounded by the number of farmers and the poor regulation on how much pesticide and other agrochemicals can be used which can lead to overuse if a farmer doesn’t know better.
The solution here is, thankfully, coupled with the solution to beef industry related deforestation: eating less beef, poultry and other meat. As approximately 80% of soy goes into feeding livestock, so by cutting down on eating meat, especially beef, you can solve two problems at once. Reducing the demand for beef directly reduces the demands for soy and agrochemical use as well. If everyone made small changes to their diet, we could help stop deforestation or slow it enough for the forest to recover. That’s why it’s only together that we can save the rainforest.
Andrus, Adam. “Pesticide Problems in the Amazon.” Conservation News. Mongabay, 21 Aug. 2013. Web. 03 Aug. 2016.
Butler, Rhett. “Amazon Destruction.” Mongabay.com. N.p., 23 Jan. 2016. Web. 03 Aug. 2016.
“Environmental & Social Impacts of Soy.” WWF Conserves Our Planet, Habitats, & Species like the Panda & Tiger. World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 03 Aug. 2016.
“Food For Thought – Soybean Endangers Brazil Amazon Rainforest.” World Information Transfer Promoting Health and Environmental Literacy. N.p., 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 03 Aug. 2016.