Community leaders from Brazil are in Brussels this week to urge the EU to correct its disastrous green fuels law which is driving deforestation in the country. With EU policymakers in the process of reviewing the bloc’s landmark ‘Fit for 55’ package on climate, energy and transport, now is the time for the EU to stop what community leaders and NGOs have dubbed ‘ecocide’.
In a move to decarbonise the transport sector, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), revised in 2018, recommends biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuel combustion. However, a lack of sustainability safeguards has led to crop-based fuels like palm and soy oil becoming the dominant sources of biofuel.
Today, many biofuels have higher CO2 emissions than the fuels they replace, due to deforestation.
Recognising that its biofuel policy increased the demand for palm oil, the EU defined palm oil as a high ILUC risk feedstock and scheduled it to be phased out by 2030. No such policy is in place for soy-based biofuel despite the fact that also soy is linked to large scale deforestation and current global ambitions for increased use of biofuels are likely to lead to a massive increase in demand.
In a high demand scenario for biofuels, consumption for soy-based biofuels may grow to 41 million tons by 2030, equivalent to around three quarters of current global production of soy oil. Such an increase in soy oil consumption would entail expected additional deforestation of 1.8 million hectares by 2030.
The soy boom is also increasing the risk of land grabbing and violence as local communities are being forced off their land. This week, community leaders from Brazil have travelled to Brussels to warn MEPs of the human and environmental cost of soy production.
“The Cerrado is the cradle of the waters of Brazil, but it exists only on lands and territories that are under the control of traditional peoples and communities. The production of commodities, especially soy, is causing the ecocide of the Cerrado and cultural genocide of traditional peoples and communities,” says Valéria Pereira Santos who represents the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT)from the Cerrado, where 75% of Brazilian soybean is produced.
Taking care of the water, soil, forest and animals guarantees the survival of our future generations. We must know how to use all natural resources in a sustainable way. Buy soy from Brazil and you agree with deforestation, land grabbing, violence, murder and persecution of indigenous peoples. The soy that leaves Brazil is stained with indigenous blood, says Jabson Nagelo da Silva, a representative from the Indigenous council of Roraima.
“The production and export of biofuels and commodities in Brazil has been carried out at the expense of increased food insecurity and environmental impact through deforestation and intensive use of pesticides. While the areas cultivated with sugarcane and soy have increased respectively by 50% and 220% in the last thirty years, the areas of beans and rice, the basis of food for the Brazilian population, have decreased by 49% and 59% respectively,” says Prof. Larissa Bombardi from the University of São Paulo.
“Tropical forests in South America are continuously being destroyed by increasing global demand for soy. As long as the EU supports the use of soy as biofuel feedstock, Europe is fuelling widespread ecological destruction in supplier countries, pushing some of our most important ecosystems towards breaking point,” says Toerris Jaeger of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Maik Marahrens of Transport & Environment, concluded: “Local communities in Brazil are under immense pressure from industrial farming. This is being driven, in part, by the EU’s promotion of biofuels and with it the need for vast amounts of soy oil to power the continent’s cars. This has left deforestation, food insecurity and habitat loss in its wake. The EU must end the use of soy biofuels now,”
Note to editors
 Today, the French NGO, Canopée, led a protest in Brussels calling for the EU to protect human rights and nature outside of the European Commission. Link to Getty Images.