New research finds that between 90 to 99 percent of all tropical deforestation is related to agriculture – either directly or indirectly. The study saw a collaboration between the world’s leading deforestation experts and looked not only at the connection between agriculture and deforestation, but how it impacts conservation efforts.

Three commodities are driving tropical deforestation: land for pasture, soy—grown primarily for livestock feed—, and palm oil . The researchers also point to sector-specific initiatives that aren’t effectively dealing with indirect impacts.

“Sector-specific initiatives to combat deforestation can be invaluable, and new measures to prohibit imports of commodities linked to deforestation in consumer markets, such as those under negotiation in the EU, UK and USA represent a major step forward from largely voluntary efforts to combat deforestation to date,” said Dr. Gardner, who is also the Director of the supply chain transparency initiative, Trase.

“But as our study shows, strengthening forest and land-use governance in producer countries has to be the ultimate goal of any policy response. Supply chain and demand-side measures must be designed in a way that also tackles the underlying and indirect ways in which agriculture is linked to deforestation. They need to drive improvements in sustainable rural development, otherwise we can expect to see deforestation rates remaining stubbornly high in many places,” Dr. Gardner added.

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