I keep telling people that one of the nice things about living in Norway is the country’s ban on genetically modified (GM) food. I don’t want to eat the stuff, and I don’t want to encourage others to grow it or eat it, either. I have seen reports that suggest that the corn crops modified are destroying natural cousins and making corn risk extinction like the banana.
Norway is the world’s third largest importer of soy and imports 90% of its non-modified soy from Brazil. The soy is used primarily as animal feed. Unfortunately, Brazil is using more and more cleared land to meet the ever-increasing demand on soy. According to my local newspaper, Bergens Tidende, Brazil has increased its soy production by 157% from 1990 to 2005. Since last year, rising demand on soy has increased the price 84%. The related increased demand on already cleared land means Brazilian cattle farmers have to clear more land for grazing. And what they are clearing is rain forest.
Part of the increase in demand is due to a 40% increase in meat consumption in Norway (and, in a complete about-face, about 15 years ago fish became more expensive than meat for the first time in history). There is, of course, the issue of giving feed concentrates to cows, which function far better on their natural diet of grass. I always assumed all cows in Norway grazed, but apparently it’s only the ones that give milk to our most popular milk chocolate, according to the wrapper. If I want beef that doesn’t depend on Brazilian soy, I have to get some from the free-range cows of Namibia or Botswana. Save the rain forest and ship food in from Africa or continue to buy “locally”, which isn’t really local beyond the slaughter house?
This situation is encouraging me to go vegetarian. Oddly, sea-farmed fish are already ahead of me there. The decreasing fish population in the sea (another reason for the increase in the price of fish) and a subsequent decrease in fish meal (precious food also for poultry), have led to an increased use of soy in sea-farms. The farmed salmon is becoming less carnivorous than the people who eat it.