BioMar’s reflections on the Brazilian soy sector

Opinions
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On a recent trip to the Brazilian soy industry BioMar finds a robust legal framework in place to promote forest conservation and human rights. While BioMar can confirm that their suppliers of non-GMO, certified soy are in legal compliance, nationwide efforts to combat illegal labor practices and “pirate soy” are hampered by the political climate and lack of resources in key areas.

BioMar recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Sorriso, Mato Grosso, the capital of Brazil’s soybean industry, to examine conditions pertaining to the report “Salmon on soy beans – Deforestation and land conflict in Brazil.” To ensure a key focus on the claims in the report, the delegation consisted of the audit team and a member of the sustainability department trained in environmental and social impact assessment. BioMar found no intent or negligence on the part of its Brazilian suppliers in being complicit with environmental or social crimes.

Brazil is home to some of the world’s most biologically diverse habitats, and the country contains thousands of traditional and indigenous communities. Brazil is also an agro-industrial powerhouse, ranking in the top five in global production of chicken, beef, soybeans, sugar cane, maize and coffee. The agricultural sector is governed by arguably the most robust and progressive agricultural laws in the world. However, despite an impressive legal framework for forest conservation and human rights, BioMar found that effective enforcement and implementation of key legislation by government agencies is hampered by the sheer size of the country, unstable political climate, and the lack of resources in key areas.

Despite these challenges, some Brazilian SPC producers are implementing innovative tools and programs that have improved legal compliance in their supply chains. Including the high definition satellite-based AgroTools software, allowing for clear delineation between reserve areas (conservation land) and productive areas (crops), and third-party certification schemes with independent yearly audits, such as ProTerra. In development is high-definition satellite technology capable of detecting “pirate soy” by comparing theoretical yields to reported harvest data ensuring that soy grown in illegal deforested areas is not mixed with legally produced soy.

BioMar has been actively engaged in capacity building on South American soy supply chains for several years, most recently as part of the project “Responsible Sourcing of Soy, Cattle and Palm Oil,” run by NEPCon and SEGES and funded by DANIDA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. The project aim was to help Danish industry conduct risk assessments and mitigation actions to minimize social and environmental risks when sourcing forest impact commodities.

The NEPCon project improved BioMar’s ability to understand the complexities of legal compliance with environmental and human rights law in South America, including Brazilian laws pertaining to deforestation and human rights. Learnings from this project have been implemented into BioMar’s BioSustain program so every customer can receive an Impact Assessment which not only assesses soy, but every raw material in any recipe.

“We will continue to work with leading environmental organizations to find the best solutions and tools for all the raw materials we source. Regular audits will continue with all our suppliers including Brazilian soy producers and we will soon be releasing our new sourcing policy which will continue to drive responsible production in our value chain”, concluded Carlos Diaz, BioMar Group CEO.