In Brazil, grain crushers have extended a two-year-old moratorium on the purchase of soybeans planted in areas of the Amazon rain forest cut down after 2006, Brazil's environment minister Carlos Minc announced this week.
The joint announcement with the Brazilian Vegetable Oils Industry Association, a soy industry group, is part of a greater effort to regulate land use in the world's largest remaining tropical wilderness.
The original ban began July 31, 2006, and was scheduled to end on July 31 of this year. It will now remain in effect until July 23, 2009.
Minc told reporters in Brazilian capital Brasilia that he would work to fashion similar agreements with loggers, slaughterhouses, and steel mills in the Amazon.
"Without regulating land use, there is no economic zoning in the Amazon," stressed Minc.
The current moratorium seems to be preventing additional rain forest destruction. A recent study conducted by Greenpeace and the oils industry association concludes that no new soybean plantations were detected in any of the 193 areas that registered deforestation of 250 acres or more during the first year of the moratorium.
"Today's decision is very important because it proves that it is possible to guarantee food production without cutting down one more hectare of Amazon forest," said the director of Greenpeace's Amazon campaign, Paulo Adario.
The agreement includes about 94% of Brazil's soybean crushers, including US commodities giants Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bunge Ltd., as well as France's Dreyfus and Brazilian-owned Amaggi. Brazil is the world's No. 2 producer of soybeans, after the US.
Environmentalists argue that rising soybean prices have encouraged farmers to expand into the Amazon, making grain the third-largest driver of deforestation after logging and cattle ranching.
However the vegetable oils association which hailed the accord denied soybeans are a major factor in Amazon deforestation.