Victoria Podesta, ADM's chief communications officer, in an emailed statement to FeedNavigator said the company is committed to “the development of traceable and transparent agricultural supply chains that protect forests worldwide.”
Soy traders from Cargill to ADM to Bunge hold huge sway when it comes to land management decisions in the soy producing regions of Brazil.
ADM's new ‘no deforestation’ policy, continued Podesta, will include the mapping of its supply chains against high carbon stock (HCS) forests, high conservation value (HCV) areas and peatlands, as well as the ‘expeditious development’ of action plans to create more sustainable production and sourcing of soy and palm oil for food and feed use.
Defining deforestation, according to Greenpeace, is complex, as it has to factor in carbon and climate, biodiversity and local community considerations.
That NGO backs the High Carbon Stock (HCS) approach, which it said identifies areas of land suitable for plantation development and forest areas that can be protected in the long term.
The ADM communications spokesperson also said the commodities giant, which does not grow soybeans but purchases them primarily from third parties and cooperatives that combine crops from many farmers, will work with independent experts, including The Forest Trust, in respect of its pledges.
The policy will be formally announced at ADM’s annual shareholder meeting next month – 7 May.
Lucia von Reusner, shareholder advocate for Green Century Capital Management, an environmentally responsible mutual fund that worked with the soy trader on the new sourcing commitments, said:
“ADM’s new policy aims to de-link food production from the crude practice of destroying forests, and sets the precedent for a new model of agricultural production that protects the environment and our food supply.”
In a letter of agreement, the commodities giant said it will continue to discuss the policy with Green Century to see how it can advance its work in this area, and that it was ‘excited’ to be positioning itself as an ‘advocate for sustainable agriculture.’
The company wrote: “Upon the issuance of our policy, we will communicate with all of our suppliers that they should not engage in deforestation or peatland clearance while we conduct the mapping and develop action plans.”
ADM also said it is to roll out an initiative, on a pilot basis, with a group of soy growers in Brazil, which involves collaboration with expert third-party inspectors who will carry out annual inspections to assess those growers based on their adherence to a broad set of social, environmental, legal and agronomic standards.
ADM is also involved in the Brazilian soy moratorium, a private sector voluntary agreement, which, since 2006, has prohibited participants from trading, acquiring or financing soybeans from areas of the Amazon Biome that were deforested after July 2008.
A study to evaluate the moratorium, published in the journal Science in January this year, show that it has made a major contribution in ensuring a reduction in deforestation in Brazil since its introduction. Prior to the moratorium, soy accounted for roughly a fifth of recent deforestation, while today its share is less than 1%.
The soy industry recently extended the soy moratorium to May 2016, by which time they assert that Brazil's environmental governance, such as the increased enforcement and national implementation of the Rural Environmental Registry of private properties mandated by the Forest Code will be robust enough to justify ending the agreement.
But the authors of the Science study, led by Holly Gibbs of the University of Wisconsin in the US, argue that a longer-term commitment is needed to help maintain deforestation-free soy supply chains, as full compliance and enforcement of these regulations is likely to be years away.
“Ending the SoyM [soy moratorium] prematurely would risk a return to deforestation for soy expansion at a time when companies are committing to zero-deforestation supply chains,” said the researchers.