A moratorium on cutting the Brazilian Amazon to plant soy may have reduced soy's direct impact on the forest for the past five years, but a proposed amendment to the Brazilian forest code could re-open the forest to soy.

The Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (ABIOVE) states that only 11,698 hectares of forest have been cleared and planted in soy since 2006 when the moratorium went into effect, reports MongaBay. Compared to 4.2 million hectares of forest lost during that same time, soy seems to have become a minor player in deforestation.

The forest may not have been lost directly to soy farms, but Discovery News reported in July on how increased soy and sugarcane demand is driving the crops into former pastures. The ranchers then move into the Amazon and cut the forest to create grasslands for their cattle.

BLOG: Crops Indirectly Deforest Amazon

Another threat to the forest comes from a possible change to Brazilian law.

Greenpeace noted that in the past 12 months, deforestation has increased dramatically in soy producing regions. They believe farmers are betting on legal changes opening the forest to cutting.

"[Forest Code] changes would allow an amnesty for past forest crimes, creating an incentive for illegal activity now and leading to an increase in deforestation before the law has even been changed. This can only get worse if the proposed amendments to the Forest Code go through," wrote Sarah Shoraka on Greenpeace's blog.

The moratorium was originally enacted in response to a Greenpeace campaign launched in 2006. Greenpeace linked soy-based chicken feed to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The main target was McDonald's chicken supply.

Greenpeace won and McDonald's demanded its suppliers provide only forest-friendly fed chickens. That compelled ABIOVE and Brazil's National Association of Cereal Exporters to either enforce the moratorium on forest clearing for soy, or lose one of their biggest customers.

BLOG: Road Trip Through the Amazon Forest

The proposed changes to the forest code would likely bring Amazon sap back into the making of McNuggets.

"Companies supporting the moratorium have also expressed their concerns about changes to the Forest Code publicly for the first time. Their voices have added to those of scientists, campaigning organizations and the majority of the Brazilian public," said Shorka. Their concern she said shows that companies are worried whether they will be capable of trading with Brazil while keeping their products free from deforestation.


The Brazilian Amazon showing deforestation in the southeast. The distinctive herringbone pattern is evident in the center. This pattern leads to fragmentation of the forest. (Wikimedia Commons)

Soy beans ready for harvest in Argentina. (Wikimedia Commons)