Lula proposes pact to curb Brazilian soy linked to savanna deforestation

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows a dead tree near a forest on the border between Amazonia and Cerrado in Nova Xavantina

By Ricardo Brito and Jake Spring

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's transition team has held meetings with the soy industry to discuss a new pact to stop deforestation in the Cerrado savanna, modeled on an agreement for the Amazon, a Lula adviser said on Wednesday.

The Cerrado, the world's most species-rich savanna, borders the Amazon and is called an upside-down forest because of its deep carbon-rich roots. Deforestation there is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.

In 2006, soy traders voluntarily agreed to stop buying soy from areas deforested in the Amazon after a certain date. Since then, soy farming has expanded rapidly in the Cerrado, where environmental advocates have lobbied for a similar pact.

"There are all the pacts that were done in the past - the soy moratorium, the legal wood pact, legal minerals. This needs to be redone, including yesterday and the day before we spoke to the soy sector about making a pact for sustainable soy in the Cerrado," said former Environment Minister Carlos Minc in a news conference alongside Lula's top environmental advisers.

"We have had this in the Amazon and it is functioning well and should be an example."

Minc did not give further details, and the transition team said it was still finalizing its first report to detail Lula's likely future environmental policy.

Brazil's farm industry and global commodities traders have previously resisted attempts to forge such a Cerrado pact, although in recent years major firms have laid out goals to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains everywhere by 2025.

Deforestation in the Cerrado increased 8% to a six-year high in 2021, according to government data.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia and Jake Spring in Sao Paulo; Editing by Brad Haynes and Lisa Shumaker)