Environmental unsustainable soybean production

Brazil, which is a major exporter of soybeans, has paid a very high environmental and well as social cost due its over-specialization. During the 1970s, in a bid to service its overseas debt burden, the Brazilian agricultural research and extension agency promoted both the clearance of frontier areas of rainforest and conversion of existing mixed farms to soybean monocropping. 500,000 hectares in the State of Rio Grande do Sul and 400,000 hectares in Parana shifted from domestic staple crops, like cassava and black beans, to soybean production for export. Competition and mechanical innovation in the soybean export sector drove many farmers out of production. There was also a marked decline in the rural population. With few employment opportunities and amenities, shanty towns, crime and prostitution grew. Meanwhile centres of soybean production, like the Cerrados region, suffered from increasing levels of soil erosion, water pollution and loss of native wildlife. Pest problems in soybean monocultures grew and required a spiralling level of chemical intervention. This in turn led to increased reliance on agricultural company inputs.

The Netherlands is the third largest agricultural exporter in the world, amounting to 10 percent of world agricultural exports in 1992. 40 percent of this export consists of livestock products. 22 percent of Dutch cattle feed consists of soybean products, 30 percent of which is imported from Brazil. The agricultural areas used for soybean production in brazil increased from 432,000 hectares to 9,600,000 hectares between 1965 and 1985. This increase in soybean production has caused large scale unemployment as soybean production requires 7 to 8 times less labour per hectare than other forms of agriculture. Unemployment and landlessness are the main causes of shifting cultivation; shifting cultivation and subsequent cattle-ranching are the main direct causes of tropical deforestation in Brazil.

(E) Emanations of other problems