Back
March 25, 2019

Soybean Moratorium helps preserve the Water Cycle in Brazil

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

As the world's population continues to increase, so too does the need to produce more food. Brazil is already one of the major food producing countries in the world and the importance of Brazilian agriculture will continue to increase in the years ahead.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the Soybean Moratorium in Brail, which prohibits the purchase of soybeans produced on illegally cleared land in the Amazon Region, could be instrumental in helping Brazil meet the food needs of future generations.

The Amazon Rainforest is often referred to as the "lungs of the earth" for its ability to capture carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the process of photosynthesis. On a more local scale, the Amazon Rainforest is critical for the water cycle in Brazil and thus Brazilian agriculture.

There are an estimated 450 billion tress in the Amazon region and a typical tree with a 10 meter canopy has the capacity to pump 300 liters of water per day into the atmosphere in the form of water vapor. That water vapor pumped into the atmosphere by the trees then returns to the earth in the form of rain. During the summer rainy season in Brazil, the water vapor from the Amazon region moves south into central Brazil and is the source of much of the rainfall across the grain belt of central Brazil.

Without the trees in the Amazon, the rainfall in central Brazil would be greatly diminished and thus grain production and livestock production would be diminished as well. That is where the Soybean Moratorium comes into play. By prohibiting the purchase of soybeans from illegally cleared land, it reduces the pressure for deforestation, thus helping to preserve the trees in the Amazon and the pumping of water into the atmosphere. If a farmer cannot sell the soybeans from illegally cleared land, then there is less incentive to clear the land initially.

The Soybean Moratorium has been in place since 2006 with the goal of increasing soybean production in Brazil without the need for deforestation in the Amazon region. The Moratorium was the result of an agreement between the agricultural sector, non-governmental agencies, civil society, and governments. The agreement was spearheaded by the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (Abiove) who continues to vigorously support the program.

The Moratorium blocks the purchase of soybeans that were suspected to have been produced on illegally cleared land in the Amazon region. The expansion of soybean production in the Amazon region is only allowed on land that was cleared before July of 2008. The National Space Research Institute (Inep) in Brazil is the organization responsible for monitoring deforestation in Brazil and determining if an area was cleared illegally.

During the 12 years that the Moratorium has been in place, there have been 10.4 million hectares of deforestation in the Amazon region, but only 64,000 hectares have been associated with soybean production. The soybeans produced on those hectares were not sold through Abiove or the National Association of Cereal Exporters (Anec).