Never Minimize All those Trees — Huge Food May Be Observing

Enlarge this imageCattle graze in pasture fashioned by cleared rainforest land in Par, Brazil. A fresh on the net resource can make it le s complicated for food stuff firms to detect this sort of land-clearing by their suppliers.Training Images/Universal Photos Team by way of Getty Imageshide captiontoggle captionEducation Images/Universal Visuals Group through Getty ImagesCattle graze in pasture fashioned by cleared rainforest land in Par, Brazil. A fresh on line software can make it le s difficult for food items firms to detect this type of land-clearing by their suppliers. Bob Uecker Jersey Schooling Images/Universal Images Team via Getty ImagesBrazilian scientists are reporting a sharp boost this year while in the clearing of forests from the Amazon. That's poor news for endangered ecosystems, also since the world's local climate. Deforestation releases significant amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide. It is also a setback for big food items organizations that have pledged to preserve those forests or not le s than to boycott suppliers that apparent forests in order to increase crops or graze cattle. "Traders these kinds of as Cargill, Bunge, or Louis Dreyfus; customer fantastic producers this sort of as Mondelz or Procter & Gamble or Unilever; retailers this sort of as Walmart and McDonald's all the major brands have made people commitments," says Luiz Amaral, director of global solutions for commodities and finance at the World Resources Institute. Most of the companies promised to lower all links to deforestation by 2020, but few are likely to make that deadline. Turns out, it can be really hard for companies to ensure that none of their raw materials came from recently cleared land. So Amaral and his colleagues just created a completely new on the internet software for busine ses to use. They call it Global Forest Watch Pro. Amaral works in Brazil. I'm in Washington, D.C. But with the magic of computer screen-sharing, he can show me exactly how it works. Amaral pulls up an image of the globe. This particular image shows which areas are covered by trees. Amaral calls it "the Google Maps of forests."This map is created from data collected by satellites operated by NASA. One satellite scans the entire planet every week, constantly updating this map.So it's po sible to tell whether trees disappear from one week to the next. Another satellite monitors the entire globe for fires. Researchers at the University of Maryland created software to filter this flood of data and detect the signals of deforestation. "The key innovation here is that the computer is doing all that work for us, constantly looking at these illustrations or photos as they're being taken, to identify if something changed within the tree cover; if there is a fire in that area," Amaral says. Then Amaral shows me how to use this device to monitor specific farms. "I uploaded 22 cattle farms in Brazil," he says. These farms show up as highlighted areas in one region of Brazil.Eat Your Way To A Healthier Life The Truth About Carbs And Calories These are real farms. Amaral got their information from a public database of land ownership in Brazil. With a few mouse clicks, we see how much of each farm is covered with trees and how that area has changed.He points out one 40,000-acre-farm. Half of it is covered in forests. But we can also see that, 15 years ago, the whole thing was forest. We zoom in closer. We can see exactly where trees disappeared in this part of Brazil. "So you can see here that almost all the tree cover lo s within this region actually happened within this specific farm here," he says.The boundary of this farm, in fact, lines up almost exactly with the area of deforestation. It looks like intentional forest-clearing, not a wildfire. "That would be exactly my a sumption," Amaral says. In a similar way, a food stuff company can enter the locations of farms from which it buys raw materials. Global Forest Watch Pro then will send an alert whenever it detects deforestation within that area.The company Mondelz International, which makes Oreo cookies and Triscuit crackers, already is using it. "I think it really is actually extremely important," says Jonathan Horrell, the company's director of global sustainability. "The resource enables you to understand what's actually happening in real time." Mondelz has pledged to minimize its greenhouse emi sions. But when it did an audit of people emi sions, it realized that fuel-burning factories and trucks were not the biggest part of its carbon footprint. "It's actually the carbon emi sions that are linked to deforestation forests being cut down so that you can produce raw materials that we use in our products," he says. People raw materials include palm oil from plantations in Indonesia, and cocoa farms in West Africa. Providers that want to use Global Forest Watch Pro have to figure out exactly where their suppliers are, and that can be difficult.Mondelz is doing this with cocoa farms. "As of the end of 2018, we'd mapped 90,000 farms in Ghana andCte d'Ivoire, which are the most important sources of cocoa in our supply chain," he says. Mondelz and other companies also monitor land that's close to mills where they buy palm oil. This is simpler to do when corporations buy food stuff directly from local producers, as is often the case with cocoa and palm oil. In other cases, though, products move through a long chain of intermediary organizations. Farmers who increase cattle may sell them to a local slaughterhouse, not directly to McDonald's. Yet Luiz Amaral, from the World Resources Institute, says even local slaughterhouses can use this new online resource. The beauty of this software, he says, is that it is really so cheap and easy to use. In fact, WRI has persuaded one slaughterhouse in Paraguay to sign up for an account.

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