By James Fagard-Burgess article Soy is probably the biggest food polluter on earth, according to an international research team that says it has found evidence of massive deforestation, over-exploitation and rampant environmental degradation in the production and processing of soybeans in South America.
Key points:A major study has found the world’s soy supply is at “critical” levels, and could be at risk of going to zero by 2030The researchers say the world needs to reduce its reliance on soy to avoid a “food apocalypse”The report says there are over 600,000 tonnes of soy on the world market, more than half of it in China and Indonesia, where the country is currently suffering from the worst drought in more than 60 years.
Soy production in China accounts for about 90 per cent of global production, while production in South Korea, Vietnam and other countries are significantly lower.
“We need to reduce our reliance on the soybean to avoid food apocalypse,” Professor Daniel Karpov, a senior researcher with the Australian National University, told ABC News.
“This report shows there is evidence of significant deforestation, the over-exaggeration of soy use, the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of soil quality.”
Prof Karpowskis report said there is a serious lack of understanding of the impact of soy farming on local ecosystems and its impacts on the environment.
“Many of the key factors affecting the environmental and social impacts of soy production in the Philippines and elsewhere in South East Asia are largely unknown,” the report said.
“The research suggests that our understanding of soy as a food source and its role in the local ecosystem is incomplete, and needs to be improved.”
It said there were “several major challenges” in terms of how to manage soy production and its impact on the ecosystem, including deforestation, under-exploration, over harvesting and pollution.
“Soy is an important source of protein and protein products in a growing population, and yet it is being over-utilised and is becoming an environmental and economic burden,” the study said.
Key findings of the report:”Over the past 15 years, we have seen an increase in soy cultivation and use, from 1.5 billion tonnes in 2007 to 3.3 billion tonnes last year, with the vast majority of this growth coming from China and South Korea.”
“This has led to significant over-extraction of soy from land and water, with major degradation of local ecosystems.”
“Land use has increased rapidly in the past decade in China, Vietnam, India and the Philippines, and the majority of the soy production is in China.”
China, South Korea and Indonesia are among the world leaders in soy production.
“The report said over-using soy in Asia and other regions was causing the region’s environmental and food security problems, and called on the international community to work together to reduce demand for soy and address the impact it is having on local communities.
It said that while it was not clear how many tonnes of agricultural land are being used to grow soy, “the number of hectares of land is increasing at an alarming rate and is increasing faster than the total area available to grow crops”.”
A number of countries, such as China, have significantly increased soy use and over-harvesting, which has created an overabundance of soy in their lands,” it said.
The report called on governments to do more to control over-use of soy, and make it more environmentally friendly.”
As the world becomes increasingly reliant on soy, the potential for over-production and under-utilisation of the food supply and environment is becoming ever-more apparent,” the researchers said.