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Food giants make ‘zero deforestation’ pledge

Twenty three global companies including an array of food industry giants have made a commitment to halt deforestation associated with food production in the Brazilian Cerrado.

The companies, that include McDonald’s, Nando’s, Tesco and Mars, pledged to accelerate progress towards deforestation-free supply chains at a meeting hosted this week by HRH The Prince of Wales.

Covering two million square kilometres, the tropical savannah is home to around 5% of the world’s biodiversity including over 800 bird species and 11,000 plant species, nearly half of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

In recent years, the Cerrado has been highly vulnerable to the clearing of forests and native vegetation for agricultural production, particularly soy, much of which is shipped to Europe for use as animal feed.

Between 2000 and 2014, the agricultural area of the Cerrado expanded by 87%, mainly due to soybean production, which increased 108% in this period. Most agricultural expansion occurred at the expense of forests and native vegetation.

The pledges come in response to the Cerrado Manifesto, launched in September by nearly 50 Brazilian and international NGOs, foundations and research institutes, which called for immediate action by the private sector to halt deforestation in the region.

The signatories have committed to working with local and international stakeholders to halt native vegetation loss in the Cerrado, and to disassociate their supply chains from recently converted areas. They will also call on other supply chain actors, governments, investors and civil society to share their goal.

Glenn Hurowitz, CEO of Mighty Earth, said the commitment could represent the beginning of the end of deforestation for soy in Latin America. “These companies have recognised that with 500 million acres of heavily degraded land available across the continent, expanding agriculture does not require destruction of native ecosystems. Now, it is up to the agribusinesses that dominate the global soy trade to act on this strong call from their customers.”