Deforestation | A report implicates Spain’s seven largest supermarkets in the collapse of the Amazon – El Salto

Deforestation | A report implicates Spain’s seven largest supermarkets in the collapse of the Amazon – El Salto
Deforestation | A report implicates Spain’s seven largest supermarkets in the collapse of the Amazon – El Salto

The seven main supermarkets with a presence in Spain contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon or have not taken measures to prevent their commercial activity from contributing to the collapse of this enclave of great environmental value. This is the main conclusion of the report “Caught! Spain’s addiction to soy is linked to the risk of deforestation in the Amazon and the Cerrado”, made public on July 9 by the international organization Mighty Earth.

By action and omission, this environmental NGO points to Carrefour, Mercadona, Alcampo, Lidl Supermarkets, El Corte Inglés, Grupo Día and Aldi for their lack of commitment in the fight against deforestation of the rainforest and tropical savannah in Brazil. This connection between Spanish supermarkets and the loss of forest mass for economic activities is established by the dependence or “addiction”, as they call it in the report, to the import of soybeans for animal consumption. In 2023, according to the report, Spain imported four million tons of soybeans from Brazil, mainly destined for livestock feed “with a high risk of being linked to deforestation or the conversion of highly threatened ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado savannah”, two regions with enormous biodiversity and with vital contributions to the precarious planetary climate balance, whose survival has been called into question by soybean monoculture, among other activities. 74% of this soybean used for livestock feed came from Brazil.

The lack of commitment to avoid the import of soybeans resulting from Amazon deforestation, denounces Mighty Earth, is repeated in the large meat producers: ElPozo, Costa Food, Grupo Fuertes, Campofrío or Valls

Spain is one of the main producers of feed for pigs and cattle in Europe and meat production represents more than 2.5% of Spanish GDP, they say.

According to Mighty Earth, the reports from these chains and the purchasing policies of the seven major supermarkets indicate that the Spanish food sector “does not pay enough attention” to the environmental consequences of importing soy resulting from deforestation.

These environmental impacts often clash with the green discourse or image of these chains, which often have large sections of organic or sustainable products. Aldi, Carrefour and Lidl have a seal that theoretically certifies their “global policy free of deforestation and conversion”. However, the investigation of this environmental NGO found “little evidence that this is done in practice”. Therefore, they indicate, a wide range of meat products used in these chains, including pork and turkey, sausages such as turkey breast and cooked ham or even chorizo, salchichón and Iberian ham may be contributing to the loss of the Amazon forests and the Brazilian Cerrado.

The lack of commitment of the main chains to the origin of the soya used is repeated in the main suppliers of meat products of the Carrefour brand, which are none other than the main meat brands in the country: ElPozo, Costa Food, Grupo Fuertes and the companies Campofrío or Valls. None of these companies, Mighty Earth denounces, publish information on the possible risk of deforestation due to the soya present in their meat products. Among the reasons why they should do so, this NGO maintains, is that they are supplied by the two main importers of soya at risk of deforestation in Spain: Bunge and Cargill.

Soybean imports from South America, much of which comes from these highly biodiverse regions, are concentrated in Spain in the ports of Barcelona and Cartagena, where Bunge and Cargill grind and process the grain. According to the report, 1.3 million tons of soybeans passed through the port of Barcelona, ​​a key point for distribution in Catalonia and Aragon, just under half of the soybeans that enter Spain.

The other major soybean importing port is Cartagena, through which almost 900,000 tons passed in 2022. From this port, they explain in the report, they supply the livestock feed industry in Murcia and companies such as Cefusa.

The soybean route

Intensive livestock farming in Spain uses protein-rich soy, which optimises the fattening of animals so that they reach “market weight” in less time. Soy cultivation, they argue in the report, is “one of the main factors in the destruction of the Cerrado savannah,” home to 5% of the world’s plant and animal species and numerous scientific communities. The expansion of the agricultural frontier is, together with the timber industry, the main motivation for the deforestation and loss of this habitat and that of the Brazilian Amazon, another source of soy imported into Spain for animal feed.

According to research carried out by Mighty Earth, the main soy traders operating in Spain “still cannot guarantee that they are free from the risk of deforestation or conversion”. In the absence of a “firm commitment” from the major soy traders to the ethical origin of their beans, this NGO is calling for the protection of “other forested lands” to be included in the European Regulation on Combating Deforestation in order not to push the Cerrado “further towards collapse”.

Soybean cultivation, fuelled by meat consumption in Europe and other wealthy countries, is one of the main causes of the degradation of the Amazon, which is experiencing its worst moment in the last 65 million years, according to recent research. The collapse of the planet’s main green lung is no longer a theory and dozens of research centres in Brazil, Spain, the United States, Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands estimate that, by 2050, between 10% and 47% of Amazonian forests will be exposed to “compound disturbances that can trigger unexpected ecosystem transitions and potentially exacerbate regional climate change.”

“In particular Carrefour, which is still unable to demonstrate full traceability in its soy supply chains. With the climate and nature emergency intensifying, Spanish supermarkets must be part of the solution to save Brazil’s precious biomes from further destruction,” says Isabel Fernández, spokesperson for Mighty Earth in Spain and lead author of the report.

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