Food Companies Are Not Stepping Up

The Lempert Report
August 27, 2019

NPR reports that Brazilian scientists are seeing a sharp increase this year in the clearing of forests in the Amazon

That's bad news for endangered ecosystems, as well as the world's climate. Deforestation releases large amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

"Traders such as Cargill, Bunge, or Louis Dreyfus; consumer good manufacturers such as Mondelēz or Procter & Gamble or Unilever; retailers such as Walmart and McDonald's — all the major brands have made those commitments," says Luiz Amaral, director of global solutions for commodities and finance at the World Resources Institute.

These and other food companies have pledged to preserve those forests — or at least to boycott suppliers that clear forests in order to raise crops or graze cattle and promised to cut all links to deforestation by 2020.

Amaral and his colleagues just created a new online tool for companies to use to monitor just what is going on and offer this as a tool to help these companies keep their promise. It’s called the Global Forest Watch Pro.

The tool is a map is created from data collected by satellites operated by NASA. One satellite scans the entire planet every week, constantly updating the map.

Another satellite monitors the entire globe for fires, which we has been in the news the past couple weeks.

It was actually researchers at the University of Maryland who created the software to filter this flood of data and detect the signals of deforestation.  

Here’s how it works: a food company can enter the locations of farms from which it buys raw materials. Global Forest Watch Pro then will send an alert whenever it detects deforestation within that area.

Mondelēz International is already is using it. "I think it's actually extremely important," Jonathan Horrell, the company's director of global sustainability told NPR. "The tool enables you to understand what's actually happening in real time."