There’s something big that many people don’t know about our global food system – in short, it’s at the heart of our environmental crisis. Globally, deforestation is responsible for 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. And while there are many causes of deforestation, including logging and land development, agriculture is widely considered one of the largest ones.

Agriculture is responsible for a staggering 80 percent of deforestation, causing humans and animals to lose their homes, and throwing entire ecosystems — as well as our planet — off balance. Soy production is one major culprit, destroying four million hectares of forest in South America every year. In total, about 18 million acres of forest are lost worldwide every year to soy – and what is the majority of this soy being sued for? Livestock feed. In fact, around 75 percent of the world’s soy is used for livestock feed since its incredibly protein-rich and helps fatten up animals quickly. For context, American livestock consumes over 30 million tons of soybean meal every year. In Paraguay, for instance, soy plantations cover about 80 percent of cultivated land.

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Now, a range of Brazilian organizations has stepped up to stop this rampant destruction with the formation of the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS). Some of the organizations involved include WWF Brazil, The Nature Conservancy, Greenpeace Brazil, Earth Innovation, CI-Brazil, and Imaflora. According to FoodNavigator, the organizations have come together to endorse a manifesto urging for the end of the destruction of forests and native vegetation in the Cerrado region of Brazil.

The manifesto states that Cerrado region is one of the great natural regions of the world, but it has seen half of its original area destroyed for soy production. The area holds five percent of the world’s biodiversity and stores the equivalent of 13.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Like palm oil, soy is an incredibly versatile crop that is produced in enormous quantities to meet a variety of needs, mostly animal feed. The manifesto states that every two months during 2013 and 2015, an area of the Cerrado the size of Greater London vanished, making the Cerrado one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet.

Marks and Spencer, Unilever, and McDonald’s have already signed on to RTRS’s resolution calling for responsible soy production, but now agri-businesses such as Cargill and Bunge need to step up to the plate.

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“It is up to the agribusinesses that dominate the global soy trade to act on this strong call from their customers. In particular, Cargill and Bunge have been most responsible for deforestation across the continent,” Glenn Hurowitz, CEO of Mighty Earth said about the manifesto.

We certainly hope that with this manifesto, some real change is made in these supply chains to help protect the future of our planet’s biodiversity, but we can all take action to help lower the impact on the planet with our food choices. Mitigating the deforestation associated with soy production boils down to limiting your consumption of animal products. By eating less meat, we can also help fight climate change, reduce our water footprint, reduce pollution, and prevent further habitat destruction and species extinction, plus redirect grain for people to eat.

You can #EatForThePlanet starting today. Just follow the three simple steps below.

1. Moderate: Limit consumption of your favorite meats like beef, lamb, pork, etc.

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2. Replace: Try to swap animal-based products in your daily diet with vegan alternatives (milk, butter, mayo, cheese, grilled chicken, beef crumbles, sausages, cold cuts, etc.)

3. Embrace: Add plant-based whole foods (local and organic when possible) to your diet like greens, fresh fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins like lentils, nuts/seeds, beans, tofu, etc.

As Nil Zacharias, the co-founder of One Green Planet says, “Eat in a way that nourishes you without starving the planet.”

We all have the power to create a better future for our children, and the countless animals we share the planet with, by making one easy swap. If you’re ready to start doing this in your own life, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.

Image Source: João Medeiros/Flickr