8 June 2022
A case study presented by Trase The European Commission has proposed new legislation to restrict the sale of agricultural commodities such as soy, beef and palm oil unless they are deforestation-free. This legislation is sorely needed, as the EU is the worlds third largest importer of tropical deforestation and associated emissions, surpassed only by China and India.How forest is defined in the legislation will affect its reach and impact. Currently, the proposal uses the definition of forest set out by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).Our case study on EU soy and beef imports from South America shows that this narrow focus on protecting FAO forests could increase pressure on other precious ecosystems.As proposed, the legislation would leave three quarters of the Cerrado (79 million hectares) and a third of the Gran Chaco (32 million hectares) unprotected. Yet most of the conversion associated with the EUs soy and beef imports from South America is in these areas.If the legislations scope is extended to other wooded land as defined by the FAO, this would decrease the unprotected Cerrado and Gran Chaco area to 18 and 24 percent, respectively. But large areas of savannah and grasslands would still be vulnerable to EU-driven ecosystem conversion.The legislation should therefore be amended to cover agricultural commodities produced on land converted from any natural ecosystems, not only forests and other wooded land.