Global deforestation: imports of soybeans, heavy trucks of the "forest" of France

A soy field in the plains of Cerrado, near Campo Verde. – YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP

  • The average annual footprint of a French "forest" is 352 m², the equivalent of four average homes, says Envol Vert, who calculated the impact of our imports on global deforestation.
  • Soy, present in the feeding of our industrial farms – mainly poultry, dairy cow and pig – is the main vector of deforestation of our consumption. Especially in the Cerrado savannah in Brazil, where we import most of our soybeans.
  • Envol Vert and WWF urge the government not to forget this problem of soy in the national strategy against imported deforestation that it prepares. The traces? Revive a French soybean industry and make our imports more responsible.

352 m² of French. This is the equivalent of four average homes … This is the area of ​​the forest needed to support the lifestyle and consumption of an average Frenchman. The calculation is Envol Vert, a French association for the protection of forests. in
a study published Thursday, the NGO was based on the average consumption of major French products from seven agricultural and forest sectors at risk of deforestation.

At least 5.1 million hectares in five years

Among these is soy, a vegetable protein frequently used in animal breeding. But also palm oil found in the composition of food products and fuels. O hevea, natural rubber for the production of tires. "It's still cocoa, the skin of your shoes, pulp or wood whose production methods can have negative impacts on forests thousands of kilometers from France," says Boris Patentreger, co-founder of Volo Verde.

"The equivalent of an area of ​​15 million hectares is needed every year to meet the French needs of these seven agricultural and forestry materials," adds Arnaud Gauffier, responsible for agriculture and food at the WWF France. The NGO also released this Thursday a study on the "forest" footprint of France, calculated this time across the country.

This does not mean that these fifteen million hectares are earned each year in the forest. "But we estimate that in the last five years France has potentially contributed to the" deforestation "of 5.1 million hectares, about twice the size of Brittany, through imports of these seven raw materials," resumes Arnaud Gauffier.

Shortly before the national strategy to combat imported deforestation

These two studies are not published this Thursday by chance. In the coming days – unless a new report is available – the government must publish its national strategy to combat imported deforestation (SNDI). The file has been on the table since last March and has been the subject of a consultation this summer. Has the problem been displayed? "
The importation of forests or agricultural products that contribute to deforestation, including indirect land-use change, ends in France ", says the Ministry of Ecological Transition, with the objective of reaching 2030 in the foreground zero impact of French imports on deforestation.

Envol Vert and WWF were consulted during round tables. "We noticed that no one had tried to quantify exactly the impact of our imports on deforestation, deplores Arnaud Gauffier." We wanted to fill this gap with these two studies. "

And finally, in passing, some ideas received. "In the minds of people, as in companies' action plans, the production of paper, wood and palm oil is the most associated with deforestation, notes Boris Patentreger, representing only 11% of the forest footprint of a French medium. "

A great forgotten, soy

France imports important quantities of timber every year [7,3 millions de tonnes] and pulp [8,2 millions de tonnes]. "But these two products are imported from plantations located mainly in Europe," explains Arnaud Gauffier, "these can still improve their practices, but the risk of deforestation associated with their production is low." As for palm oil, its cultivation is regularly identified for the significant deforestation that it causes in Indochina and in Malaysia, the two main producing countries.

Envol Vert and the WWF classify palm oil among the French imports that represent the greatest risk of deforestation. "But we import a little less than one million tons every year," says Arnaud Gauffier. Against 4.8 million tons of soybeans requiring the mobilization of 2.8 million hectares. Soybeans are another high-risk crop for deforestation. "

It is on this culture that the two NGOs want to put the cursor. "These soybean imports are very little seen today as they account for just 206 out of 352 m² of the average forest footprint of a Frenchman," said Boris Patentreger.

The Savannah Cerrado was gnawing little by little

Indeed, France is one of the main importers of soy. The cakes in particular were used to feed poultry, pigs and dairy cows. It is an excellent source of protein. But this soya imported from France comes a lot from Brazil, the world's leading exporter since 2005, where cultivation is done at the expense of forests. "Not so much from Amazonia elsewhere." Since 2006, there has been a moratorium on soybean cultivation to exclude all suppliers who have grown soybeans from newly deforested land from commercial channels. "This moratorium proved to be relatively effective, says Boris Patentreger. But the cultivation of soy has moved the earth to the
Cerrado, a vast wooded, less protected savannah. "The Cerrado is a third of the Brazilian territory that hosts a large number of endemic species [qu’on ne trouve que là], completes Arnaud Gauffier. This ecosystem has already lost 50% of its initial surface. "

Reanimate a soy sector in France?

Envol Vert and WWF invite the government not to abandon the problem of "soya" in its national strategy against imported deforestation. The first of the tracks is already to reduce our soy imports by increasing the production of vegetable protein in France. "Even soy, which grows very well in some French regions, including the south-west, remembers Arnaud Gauffier.This French" soybean "sector is slowly recovering today, with cultivated areas increasing from 28,000 hectares in 2008 to 142,000 in 2017. E
Terres Univia, the interpenetration of vegetable oils and proteins, aims to
the 250,000 hectares in 2025. "We must also make sure to rebuild in France a soy processing industry that we lost over the years & # 39; 70," says the head of agriculture at WWF France.

It is unlikely, however, that France will ever be able to do without these Brazilian soybean imports. "But we can already make these imports more responsible, as we are trying today to do on palm oil, encourages Arnaud Gauffier.The cultivation of soybeans in Brazil should not be to the detriment of Cerrado.There are 50 million hectares of prairies degraded in Brazil just waiting to be restored and cultivated.The problem is that it is even more expensive today than deforestation.Importants therefore support and encourage good practices. "

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