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Globally, deforestation is responsible for 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. While there are many causes of deforestation, including logging and land development, agriculture is widely considered one of the largest ones. It has been estimated that 80 percent of tropical deforestation is driven by agriculture. This is no small charge considering around 40 percent of the world’s landmass is currently devoted to agriculture.

The expansion of agriculture to feed the ever growing population of the planet is logical, however it is becoming more apparent that the logic in our food system is flawed. The majority of the crops grown worldwide are not being used to directly feed the hungry mouths of nearly billion people who go to bed hungry every day, but rather the mouths of the planet’s livestock. When you think about the fact that it takes 100 calories of grain to produce 3 calories of beef, the inefficiencies in this system become evident. Effectively, in order to sustain the 9.6 billion people who are predicted to inhabit the earth by 2050, the amount of land designated to grow livestock feed alone with have to increase by 42 percent. Since the planet is not growing, this means more forests will be converted to crop land.

One of the crops that is most popularly grown for livestock feed is soy. When you think about deforestation related to crops, palm oil might come to mind, but soy production is responsible for a hefty amount of deforestation. To give you an idea of the damage that is being done to the planet to grow this crop – mainly to feed livestock – let’s take a look at the top 10 things you need to know about soy and it’s link to deforestation.


What Can You Do?

Mitigating the deforestation associated with soy production boils down to limiting your consumption of animal products. If the population of Germany that ranks around 80 million people can reduce the amount of land used for agriculture by 1.8 million hectares think about how much land could be saved if the entire U.S. population also reduced their consumption of animal products.  We’ll do the math for you: if the U.S. population reduced their consumption of animal products by the same amount the Germans did, we could reduce the amount of land we use for agriculture by 7.2 million hectares! That would equal out to around 3.3 million hectares of South American rainforest … that could literally save more than the amount of land that has been lost to soy production in Gran Chaco!

So, knowing what you can do about soy, animal agriculture and how the two impact the planet … why not opt for a veggie burger for dinner tonight?

Graphic by Hannah Williams

Lead image source: LOE

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2 comments on “The Surprising Way Your Diet can Fix the Soy and Deforestation Problem”

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Stephen Jones
1 Years Ago

In her book "Diet for a Small Planet" circa 30 years ago, Frances Moore Lappe discussed the very same thing in great detail. I found her book when I was an undergraduate student, and it changed how I viewed the world! It seems as though we haven\'t made much of an improvement, or is my "old age" pessimism blocking the reality of it all?

Great article!!

1 Years Ago

I never eat meat. It is easy and more and more socially acceptable to be a vegetarian these days, which is a good reason in my opinion for more people to give it a try.


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