The Amazon rainforests have a new enemy: soya bean. According to deforestation figures released by the Brazilian government recently, a huge forest area of 26,130 square kilometres (sq km) was destroyed in the year ending August 2004, mainly by soya bean farmers. The destruction was almost six per cent higher than in the previous year and just 3,000 sq km less than the record destruction in 1995, when soya farming accounted for less than half of it. Brazil reported a record trade surplus last year, driven mainly by soya exports. Environmentalists allege that the government has neglected environmental concerns to gain trade benefits.
Over 90 per cent of the world's soya production is used to feed animals. The use has increased further due to the mad cow crisis, which exposed the dangers of feeding cattle with animal parts. Besides, the popularity of soya products for human consumption has also grown in recent years. Simon Counsell, director of Rainforest Foundation, an international organisation working to protect the world's rainforests, points out that leading global agencies, especially the World Bank, responsible for tackling deforestation, are in fact accentuating it. "The World Bank has been funding the expansion of the soya industry in Brazil