Deforestation hotspots driven by trade of coffee, cocoa and palm oil, linked to malaria
11 Mar 2020 --- A fifth of the malaria risk related to deforestation hotspots is driven by the international trade of exports, including coffee, soybean, cocoa, palm oil and beef. This is according to research conducted at the University of Sydney, Australia and University of São Paulo, Brazil, which advocates for more mindful food consumption and procurement. The researchers are also calling for the halting of buying from sources implicated with deforestation. The study is touted as the first to link global demand for deforestation-related goods to a rise in malaria risk in humans and consequently voices its support for sustainable land ownership in developing countries.
“We need demand-side measures that complement existing malaria control measures. We should also initiate producer and consumer dialog at various links in supply chains for sustainable production and consumption,” co-author Dr. Arunima Malik, Lecturer at the Centre for Integrated Sustainability Analysis in the School of Physics, Australia, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
The research team investigated links between the increasing risk of malaria in developing countries and the products demanded by distant consumers. This was done by quantitatively relating malaria incidence first with deforestation, then to primary commodity production. “We then connected these to global supply-chain networks and ultimately to worldwide consumer demand,” Dr Malik explains. Moreover, she highlights that the study did not distinguish between food grown for humans and food grown for animals, which may be the case for products like soy.
The final step was accomplished by coupling a highly detailed and large international database with an established and widely used analytical technique, better known as multi-region input-output (MRIO) analysis. Dr. Malik affirms that her research exceeds the scope of mere incidence mapping and correlations. This is because it unveils a global supply-chain network that links malaria occurring in specific locations because of deforestation with globally dispersed consumption.
F&B role in shaping potential solutions
The UN has long promoted sustainable crop production and public disease prevention via healthy nutrition while pointing to the interdisciplinarity of these global challenges. Notably, “Good Health and Wellbeing” and “Responsible Consumption and Production” make up the UN’s third and 12th Sustainable Development Goals, respectively.
Demand-side initiatives, such as product labeling and certification, supply-chain dialog and green procurement standards, have been successful in addressing trade-related global problems such as deforestation, threats to species and child labor. Consumers can play a role in this by becoming increasingly aware of the products they consume and purchase.
Likewise, sustainable production would not only have positive impacts for primary producers, says Dr. Malik, but would also translate to improved and sustainable outcomes further up the supply chain. “There could be opportunities to link up with existing initiatives focused on promoting sustainable production, such as eliminating deforestation from the Cocoa Supply Chain. The food and beverage industry needs to play a crucial role in this.”
Examples of attempts made in this space include PepsiCo releasing an in-depth global policy on sourcing sustainable palm oil to help address the challenges often associated with the popular edible oil crop and its widespread use in the food industry. Similarly, The Rainforest Alliance bolstered its Cocoa Certification Program to drive more transparency and shared responsibility in cocoa production, regarding it as “essential to building a sustainable sector.” The program aims to address core challenges in the cocoa sector, notably farmer livelihoods, child labor and deforestation.
By Anni Schleicher, with additional reporting by Missy Green
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