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Soybean growth threatens Amazon rainforest

 Posted by on January 7, 2010
Jan 072010
 

From Green Right Now Reports

The soybean is a versatile crop. It helps add nitrogen back to the soil. It’s a cheap source of animal feed. In various forms, it eventually becomes suitable for human consumption in forms such as chicken (or eggs) or beef on the table.

So what’s wrong with a hard-working legume gaining a little popularity? As is often the case, too much of a good thing is, indeed, too much.

Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, suggests that the mad dash to plant more soybeans poses a threat to the Amazon rainforest.

As it turns out, the soybean’s versatility has made it all the rage globally. Since 1950, the world’s harvest has grown from 17 million tons to 250 million tons. Soybeans are the No. 2 crop in the United States and have become even more dominant in Brazil and Argentina.

How do the South American countries satisfy demand? By planting more crop. And how do they come up with enough land to do so? By clearing so much land that the Amazon rainforest is in danger of becoming more dried-out and susceptible to fire.

As part of its contribution to lowering global carbon emissions, Brazil has discussed reducing deforestation 80% by 2020. If soybean consumption continues to climb, however, economic pressures to clear more land could make this goal challenging, at best, putting the rainforest — and all it provides — at risk.