In September 2017, nearly 50 Brazilian and international NGOs, foundations and research institutes launched the 'Cerrado Manifesto'. It called for immediate action by the private sector - including the adoption of effective policies and commitments to eliminate deforestation and conversion of native vegetation and disassociate their supply chains from recently converted areas. On 25th of October 2017, twenty three global companies including METRO respond positively to that call for action.
They reaffirm together their individual and collective commitments to halting forest loss associated with agricultural commodity production and recognise the critically important role played by the Cerrado for its role in climate change mitigation, biodiversity, water and agricultural production. 18 of the 23 companies that have signed the manifesto had already committed to The Consumer Goods Forum's resolution in 2010 to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020, through the responsible sourcing of key commodities such as soy, palm oil, paper and pulp, and cattle.
The Cerrado is Brazil's tropical savannah, covering 2 million square km or 21% of its territory – an area equivalent to the size of England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined. A global biodiversity hotspot, it is home to around 5% of the world's biodiversity including over 800 bird species and 11,000 plant species, nearly half of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The region is essential for water and rainfall across Brazil, and locks up deceptively large stores of carbon. Recent studies suggest that the emissions from losing only 31-34% of the Cerrado's remaining vegetation (~8.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide) would be more than 2.5 all the emissions reductions achieved in the Amazon between 2005 and 2013.
Despite its environmental and economic value, the Cerrado is highly vulnerable to the clearing of forests and native vegetation for agricultural production, particularly soy. Between 2000 and 2014, the agricultural area of the Cerrado expanded by 87%, mainly due to soybean production, which increased 108% in this period. In the Matopiba region (the confluence of the states Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia), most agricultural expansion occurred at the expense of forests and native vegetation. European consumers do not consume large amounts of soy directly – but it is embedded in modern food supply chains. Due to a rising demand worldwide for meat products, soy has become one of the world's biggest crops. The majority of soy is used as animal feed, with 80% fed to livestock, especially chickens. Companies recognise the need to support development and growth in soy producing regions. Recent research has shown that deforestation and native vegetation loss is not an inevitable result of soy production in the Cerrado. There are at least 25.4 million hectares of already converted land that is suitable for agriculture, and improvements to agricultural productivity are highly compatible with the protection of forests and native vegetation.
"The Cerrado feeds billions of people from Brasilia to Beijing," said Mauricio Voivodic, executive director of WWF-Brazil, "and to continue doing so, it needs intact habitats, rich biodiversity, fertile soil, fresh water, and a stable climate. We applaud companies endorsing the Cerrado Manifesto because they're sending a clear message to the market that we can meet tomorrow's demand on the cropland and pastureland we already have; in fact, we can't afford not to."
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