Only Big Food Can Prevent Deforestation

© MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images

By Danica Lo Posted November 04, 2016

It's a team effort.

In the fight to slow climate change, one of the most pressing problems we face is deforestation. According to the World Wildlife Fund, between 46,000 and 58,000 square miles of forest are decimated every year—"equivalent to 48 football fields every minute." Commodities like palm oil, soy, cattle, wood, rubber, sugar, cocoa, and even coffee account for a huge share of deforestation worldwide, so Big Food companies stand to be powerful allies to environmentalists.

The good news is that some of the biggest food companies in the world have stepped up and pledged to reduce their impact on forests. In fact, more than 400 companies have made this promise—which is great news—but, according to a new report published by the New York Declaration on Forests, "The majority of companies assessed in the study have yet to take essential steps toward implementation of their pledges."

There's also no way to measure the precise effect that corporate efforts are having, the report says, "Though two tools are being refined and developed that may provide answers within the next couple of years."

Even if corporations established better and more rigorous supply chains, it may not be enough. Climate Focus Director Charlotte Streck told NPR reporter Dan Charles that while the beef industry is one of the largest contributors to deforestation in South America, the industry is largely immune to North American and European corporate pressures, because the majority of the meat produced in South America never makes it off the continent. "I do not think that an individual company, even a big one, has the power to reduce deforestation," she tells Charles, "but I do think that there is a critical mass, and that matters."

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