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World Wildlife Fund On Balance

filtered by category: Food Security

  • Date: 21 February 2017
  • Author: Jason Clay

When a large, global food company commits to deforestation-free commodities, its entire supply chain listens. And when McDonald’s does so, other global food companies follow suit. That’s why the company’s commitment to source only deforestation-free beef by 2020 in regions with identified risks relating to the preservation of forests holds such promise to protect critical habitats, including Latin America’s most valuable ecosystems.

While deforestation has slowed across parts of the Amazon, it remains the world’s largest arc of deforestation. Furthermore, as if to compensate for progress in the Brazilian Amazon, deforestation has intensified in other Amazon regions of countries neighboring Brazil, as well as the Cerrado savannah of Brazil, and the Chaco mixed grass and woodlands of Paraguay and Argentina.

Many factors drive deforestation, but beef production is the biggest. Cattle ranching occupies about 80 percent of the deforested area in the Amazon, and it has led to the conversion of nearly 200 million acres of Cerrado habitat. Between 1976 and 2011, more than 29 million acres of Chaco habitat were converted largely first for the production of beef and then soy, a feed source for livestock.

The environmental impacts of deforestation are clear: it contributes to climate change, drought, soil degradation and erosion, water pollution, the spread of disease, and the loss of biodiversity. There are a number of social impacts as well from land conflicts to bonded and child labor, the displacement of indigenous cultures, and deterioration of water quality for drinking and fish, the most common source of protein in many affected areas.

From multinational traders to smallholder farmers, businesses increasingly recognize the economic risks of deforestation, such as resource scarcity and soil degradation, supply chain instability, legal jeopardy, and reputational harm. Its impact on weather variability is particularly troublesome for Latin American farmers who largely rely on rain as opposed to irrigation. Indeed, research indicates that deforestation has contributed to several “once-in-a-century” droughts and floods in Brazil since 2000.

Global food companies are in a unique position to influence not only their own supply chains but also that of their rivals. McDonald’s need for ground beef from select cuts leaves the majority of each animal for other buyers. In other words, for every pound of deforestation-free beef raised on farms that supply to McDonald’s, several more pounds of food—as well as leather and other byproducts—are destined for other companies’ supply chains, facilitating a sector-wide move to conserve forests.

WWF is working to support the transition to deforestation-free commodities, such as beef, soy, palm oil, timber, and so on. As a founding member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, for example, WWF works with producers, other industry players, environmental NGOs, and researchers to push for the adoption of locally appropriate indicators and metrics that help producers reduce the footprint of the beef they produce. In collaboration with National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, we are securing commitments from other companies in the beef and soy supply chains to eliminate deforestation in the Amazon, Cerrado, and Chaco ecosystems specifically.

Just as the global, interconnected food system means that environmental and economic impacts can reverberate around the world, so too can positive commitments to protect forests ripple out across the entire industry. As one of the largest single buyers of beef, McDonald’s influences producers, processors, distributors, and other companies at every point along the value chain. Today, it is sending a clear message to all of them: the future of beef is deforestation-free.

  • Date: 20 July 2016
  • Author: Casey Harrison, WWF

An aerial view of small farmers feilds being irrigated during the dry season in the Ruaha catchment, Tanzania.

Flying at 10,000 feet over Tanzania can give you a unique perspective on the country’s landscapes. On a recent flight over the Nguru Mountains, our pilot told us how he’d watched first-hand over the last 30 years as the region’s forests have retreated, soil has eroded, and rivers have grown murkier, all largely due to unfettered agricultural expansion. And that’s a big part of the reason my colleagues and I were there.

We were together in the Southern Highlands on a scoping journey for the CARE-WWF Alliance, learning from governmental, community, and agricultural leaders and identifying sustainable agricultural policies and practices that can conserve biodiversity and natural resources while creating jobs and food for vulnerable women and men.

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  • Date: 01 May 2015
  • Author: James Beard, WWF and Rafael A Grillo Avila, Environmental Defense Fund

If international aviation were a country, it would be a global top ten carbon emitter, with emissions expected to triple or quadruple by 2040. This is why the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has agreed to cap net carbon emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels.

ICAO aims to achieve this goal through technical and operational measures; carbon pricing through market-based measures (MBM’s); and biofuels. Many airlines see biofuels as a “silver bullet” for meeting their carbon goals. Already over 40 airlines have flown over 600,000 biofuel-powered flights.

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  • Date: 22 March 2015
  • Author: Imakando Sinyama, WWF Zambia

WWF and Sedex released a brief for World Water Day examining corporate water risks, and of the many important take-aways, the one that sticks with me most is this: Even if a business is highly water efficient or uses a relatively small amount of water, they may still be at risk.

This is counter-intuitive in the extreme, and clearly it is a message that hasn’t sunk in with most suppliers. To help get your head around this, let’s take a look at a very specific example: the Kafue Flats.

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  • Date: 04 November 2014
  • Author: Rod Snyder, president, Field to Market

One of the most significant challenges facing this generation is how we provide food, fiber and fuel for 9 billion people across the globe by 2050, while conserving finite natural resources.

Finding science-based solutions to sustainable food production is a complex and difficult task, one that requires collaboration and cooperation among all of us. One of the key steps is defining the sustainability framework, definitions, indicators and metrics for sustainable agriculture and food systems that can measure our continuous progress.

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  • Date: 25 September 2013

In the second installment of our Balancing Act interview series with corporate sustainability leaders, we asked Steve Peterson, director of sourcing and sustainability at General Mills to discuss how integrating sustainability into their business has changed the company, the industry, and how they are impacted by and responding to environmental issues like resource scarcity.

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  • Date: 03 July 2013
  • Author: Nick Conger

Nestled in the Yellow Sea just off the Northeast coast of China lies a tiny patch of land called Zhangzi Island. Looking out the window of the ferry boat, the smog from Dalian recedes in the background and for the first time in three days, I see blue sky. The island appears in the distance, peppered with wind turbines and solar panels.

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  • Date: 26 June 2013
  • Author: Nick Conger

The world has never seen economic growth at a rate currently happening in China. Having surpassed Japan in 2011, it’s quickly become the world’s second largest economy and its GDP continues to expand (though ebbing in recent years).

I’m just back from a 10-day visit to China and can attest to this growth. Industrial cranes fill the skylines from Beijing to Dalian to Wuhan, construction vehicles clog traffic patterns, pollution billows into the air. So much that China is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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  • Date: 15 May 2013
  • Author: Nick Conger

WWF's mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.

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