There’s a curious ad in last month’s Atlantic magazine. Courtesy of Cargill, the ad shows a sofa modeled after a field of soy, headlined with “This Sofa Design Coordinates with Everything. Even Nature.” The caption underneath boasts of a new type of foam made from BiOH polyols, derived from soy, that “replace a portion of the petroleum-based ingredients for flexible foams.”
If you travel to Brazil’s Cerrado, the savannah grassland that borders the Amazon, and the site of more than half of Brazil’s soy crop, ‘nature’ may likely be the last word that comes to mind. Planted by Cargill and other large agribusinesses for animal feed, and now furniture foam, Brazilian soy is the poster child of habitat destruction and monoculture. As much as 48 percent of the Cerrado has been cleared and replaced with row upon perfect row, for as far as the eye can see, of little green soy leaves punctuated by plastic yellow Round-up ready signs.
Considered a less glamorous cause than its neighbor the Amazon, the destruction of the Cerrado has occurred largely outside of the public’s focus. An interesting oversight, as the Cerrado is at least as biodiverse as the Amazon, is disappearing at twice the rate of the Amazon, and the global warming potential of the carbon dioxide emissions stemming from its destruction may even be greater than those coming from the Amazon. If the destruction of the Cerrado continues at the present rate, it is expected to disappear completely by 2050. While Cargill boasts that its BiOH polyol production in Brazil does not contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon, it mentions nothing of how its activities affect the Cerrado. Thanks for the innovative thinking Cargill, but this is not what nature intended.