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  • Soy harvesting in Argentina.

    Soy harvesting in Argentina. | Photo: EFE

Published 1 November 2018

Veganism can help combat climate change by decreasing demand for meat — but there are still environmental impacts to consider in choosing what you eat.

Every year more and more people turn to a plant-based diet. Some do it for health reasons, others as a commitment to fighting widespread cruelty against animals, and some do it over environmental concerns. To all altruists we applaud you -- and we urge caution against soy monocultures.

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In the United States alone, the number of people who identify as vegans has increased five times over since 2014. In the United Kingdom, a recent poll revealed a 261 percent increase in the past decade.

An animal-free diet is an important path in the fight against climate change because it could help reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses. According to the United Nations, livestock farming accounts for 18 percent of all greenhouse gasses which contributes to global warming. The U.N. has also identified growing stocks of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate, forests, and wildlife.

Cattle ranches are a top contributor to deforestation, especially in countries like Brazil and Argentina. Deforestation, in turn, affects the world’s biodiversity.

Replacing animal products with soy-based alternatives (steaks, burgers, sausages, etc.) makes the switch to a plant-based diet easier. However, another threat to the world’s ecosystems and capacity to host human life is growing monoculture, including vast soy plantations. Soy monocultures involve pesticides and fertilizers that pollute water sources and soil. Monsanto is one of the biggest contributors.

“Since the 1950s, global soybean production has increased 15 times over. The United States, Brazil, and Argentina together produce about 80% of the world’s soy,” the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says.

One Green Planet advises to purchase produce from local farmers and even grow your own food garden at home to help ease the pressure on the planet’s ecosystems.

The WWF has warned that “without proper safeguards, the soybean industry is causing widespread deforestation and displacement of small farmers and indigenous peoples around the globe.” 

A recent report by Mighty Earth, along with Rainforest Foundation Norway and Fern revealed meat and soybean production are tied to widespread deforestation, fires, and human rights violations in Argentina and Paraguay’s Gran Chaco. According to their research, the excessive demand for the products has led to the increase in environmental and socio-economic issues in the region.

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