Potentially illegal activities in Brazil soy production raise concern in aquaculture sector
A report from the Rainforest Foundation and the non-governmental organization Future in our Hands accuses three soy producers in Brazil of illegal deforestation, violently and illegally seizing land, using illegal pesticides, and using slave labor.
Brazilian soy giants Caramuru, Selecta, and Imcopa allegedly contracted with the producers in question, leading aquaculture firms who bought feed containing Brazilian soy to question whether their supply chains may be tainted by the alleged abuses.
The report’s contents were revealed by the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet. In statements to the newspaper, Selecta denied wrongdoing, while Caramuru disputed some of the report’s findings, and Imcopa said one of the companies was an important supplier in prior years but now supplies less than three percent of the company’s total product.
The report reveals a lack of transparency in the Brazilian soy industry, and a lack of authority or willpower on behalf of both Brazil’s soy companies and the Brazilian government to curtail some of the industry’s worst practices, according to the Rainforest Foundation and Future in our Hands.
"The Brazilian soy that ends up in Norwegian fish feed comes from companies that obviously do not control or take responsibility for the serious overtakes that occur in their own supply chain. It's totally unacceptable,” Future in our Hands Head Anja Bakken Riise said. "Soybean production in Brazil threatens the livelihoods of poor peasants and indigenous peoples. We cannot accept this. We expect the Norwegian authorities to focus on sustainable raw materials and that fish feed producers phase out the soybean.”
Rainforest Foundation Norway Director Øyvind Eggen also called for the phase-out of the use of soy in aquafeed.
"Now we see for the first time that Norwegian aquaculture industry uses soya from actors that can be linked to deforestation. It is very serious. The aquaculture industry must reduce soy consumption. In addition, they must demand that their suppliers clean up and stop all purchases of deforestation soya,” Eggen told Dagbladet.
Norwegian aquaculture and aquafeed firms Marine Harvest, Cargill, Polarfeed, BioMar, and Skretting all issued statements in response to the accusations, expressing their seriousness in looking at the report and investigating their supply chains, according to Dagbladet.
"We are very serious about the accusations presented in the report from the Rainforest Foundation and the Future in our Hands. If this is correct, there is a clear breach of both our ‘Code of Conduct for suppliers,’ which all suppliers must follow, and our ‘Feed policy,’” Marine Harvest spokesperson Ola Helge Hjetland said. "We will now carefully review the documentation and address this with our suppliers as soon as possible.”
Skretting Director Erlend Sødal said the report’s allegations are “completely unacceptable to Skretting."
“If it is correct, there is a violation of our Supplier Code of Conduct, which all our suppliers must sign and live,” he said. "In this context, we have asked for meetings with the senior management of these companies at the same time as we now contact an independent auditor in Brazil to check both the report and the companies' production practices.”
BioMar Vice President Jan Sverre Røstad acknowledged his company has traded with Caramuru, Selecta, and Imcopa, buying between 20,000 and 60,000 metric tons of soy annually. While calling the allegations “troubling,” Røstad said Brazil has long been the only market that has been able to offer non-genetically modified soybeans, the only permitted alternative for Norway.
“BioMar has for a long time been working to find alternative sources to reduce dependence on Brazilian soy,” Røstad said. “The Brazilian soy market is complex with many smaller and larger soy farmers who supply for further processing at major manufacturers. This means that it is difficult to track / follow every single soy farmer. To ensure that our suppliers have sustainable practices, BioMar only purchases from certified suppliers. BioMar as a company, and our products must have a clear sustainability profile. BioMar has strict requirements for its suppliers.”
Cargill Aqua Nutrition North Sea Managing Director Fredrik Witte said his company has not yet found evidence that any of the subcontractors in question are in the company’s supply chain.
“If, after further investigation, it appears that they are in our supply chain and that there are team statements, there will be clear breaches of the Cargill's Supplier Code of Conduct and we will take immediate action,” Witte said.
Photo courtesy of the Rainforest Foundation