December 11, 2008
British environmental group Friends of the Earth (FOE) has published a derogatory report on the environmental and social impacts of producing soymeal for animal feed.
"What's Feeding our Food" was the group's challenge to the British government im revolutionising meat processing in the country and reduce reliance on imported animal feed. It is also planning to lobby members of the parliament (MP) to encourage the government to take a more sustainable and wide-reaching approach to livestock farming and food.
The report also emphasised that the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) has led EU to become heavily dependent on soy imports from Latin America, where soy production has more than doubled in the last 15 years.
FOE claims that, as a result, "Many of the damaging impacts of mass production are being exported." These include environmental impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and water use, as well as social issues such as the displacement of small-scale farmers, unemployment and health problems from pesticide spraying.
The destruction of the Amazon rainforest by cattle ranchers displaced by soy farming and soy planters themselves was among the key issues in the report. According to the study, the recent boom in agricultural prices has fuelled deforestation and more than 3,000 square metres of forest were cleared in the year between August 2007 and August 2008.
The study reveals that cattle ranchers and soy planters will destroy 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest by 2050 if current trends continue.
Although Brazil maintains that cattle ranchers encroaching on the Amazon do not supply beef to UK, the soy which has displaced these farmers is imported to the UK for use in animal feed.
The report also points out that along with farmers in Latin America, the British agricultural community is also suffering the same consequences. Reliance on feed imports meant UK farmers had to pay GBP80/tonne more for their chicken feed last year and fertiliser costs rose by 156 percent in the same period.
FOE has identified eight areas where the UK government could help. Suggestions include incentives to help farmers take up environmentally friendly practices, improved government procurement policies, funding for research and development, improved corporate accountability and changes in global investment.
The government, according to FOE must "stop using taxpayers' money to fund big business-led factory farms - and instead support homegrown animal feeds and low-impact meat and dairy production."
It is clear, the group emphasizes, that the "current model of livestock production is no longer affordable in environmental or social terms."