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Soy exports for Brazil and the United States

Why is soy bad for the Amazon rainforest?

Soy production in Brazil is contributing to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, both directly through forest clearing for new soy farms (usually giant in size) and by displacing small farmers who then move into forest areas for subsistence agriculture. Further pressure comes from the development of infrastructure (like roads and ports) to support soy expansion. This infrastructure attracts other developers (like loggers, ranchers, and colonists who have been displaced from elsewhere) who cut down the forest.

Why is soy expanding in the Amazon?

Soybean cultivation is expanding in the Amazon due to economics, including high prices for grains. These high prices are driven by increasing demand for meat in countries with a large and fast-growing middle class (especially India, Brazil, and China) and U.S. government subsidies for corn-based ethanol production. Such subsidies (essentially payments to farmers for growing certain crops) mean that American farmers are planting corn instead of soy. Less soy production in the United States, means that more production is needed in places like Brazil, which has large tracts of lands suitable for agriculture.

Since 1990 the area of land planted with soybeans in Amazonian states has expanded at the rate of 14.1 percent per year and now covers more than eight million hectares.

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By Rhett Butler

Date published: June 24, 2004 | Last updated: December 5, 2015