Global soy prices, demand and the race to feed the global population and combat global hunger make soy one of the world’s most produced, highly consumed and recommended plants. Soy is also hailed as the essential food for solving balance diet challenges and compensation for low levels of certain nutrients in the body. However, as the world focuses on boosting production, minimal attention goes to discussing the environmental impacts of soy.
Normally, as demand for a product rises, the environmental impacts are also likely to be of concern hence the need to understand the environmental impact of soy. The analysis is critical for promoting sustainable soy production and discovering soy’s potential and adverse effects on the environment.
Is soy sustainable?
Reducing pollution due to animal farming
Despite the increased usage, there is still limited information about soy and its sustainability impact. Soy is one of the most sustainable products making it a suitable replacement for environmentally hazardous practices such as extensive animal farming.
One of the leading sources of methane and ozone gases is animal farming which is dairy, beef and other farming practices. Studies also indicate that the rising production of chicken meat and eggs has led to environmental impacts, especially due to the poor disposal of chicken refuse, which, when mixed with water, can degrade the environment over a long period.
Currently, there is limited effort to solve the problem since large-scale chicken firms do not have the best places and strategies to dispose of chicken waste.
The increased pollution from animal farming is due to the global demand for high-quality proteins. Instead of increasing global pollution due to such farming practices, the world should implement and encourage people to consider other protein alternatives to reduce the pressure of animal farming and production. This is why environmental conservation bodies currently advise on global soy use as a strategy to combat pollution caused by animal farming.
Fossil fuels are currently contaminating our planet at a faster rate than intended. They are the leading contributors to global warming due to increased carbon emissions and other ozone gases. However, recent efforts to make society fully sustainable by depending on renewable energy are currently failing to the limits of renewable energy sources.
To compensate for fossil fuels, some companies are currently manufacturing soy biofuels that do not pollute the environment. The production process is cleaner than fossil fuels; they have extremely low fuels and can be used for other needs, such as fueling cars and powering electricity generators. The only challenge to increased production is the slow uptake and the unwillingness to exploit plant biofuels; otherwise, soy could help solve the global emission problems from moving cars.
Negative impacts of soy on the environment
Soy production also has various negative effects on the environment caused directly and indirectly. Here are some negative effects.
Due to the rising demand for soy products, farmers are increasingly focusing on strategies to increase production volumes. Farmers in the Brazilian Amazon region are cutting trees to pave the way for soy production. As farmers continue to cut down trees to create more land for farming, there is an increased risk of global warming due to the lack of enough trees to absorb global CO2 levels.
Deforestation also leads to other adverse environmental impacts, such as declining rainfall patterns and unpredictable weather. As a result, agricultural production must resolve to other agricultural practices, such as using GMO seeds that can withstand weather changes. Such foods harm people directly.
As the demand for soy increases, currently available land may not be enough to meet the global demand hence putting more forested areas at risk unless governments implement tough initiatives.
Contribution to soil erosion
As farmers cut more trees to create more land for soy farming, the erosion levels increased for two reasons. First is the lack of trees to hold the soil firm, preventing erosion downhill. As the erosion increase, the soil quality also declines and in the long run, farmers will have to rely on fertilizers that directly pollute soil,
Secondly, new farming practices, especially large-scale farming practices, do not give room for erosion buffers. Instead, farmers want one huge plot of land to plow using machines without barriers. As a result, the soil is exposed without any barriers to control erosion. In the long run, sustainable soy farming will turn to chemical-dependent soy farming practices, further increasing environmental pollution levels.
Impact of large-scale agriculture
Large-scale soy farming requires some industrial practices that are harmful to the environment. First, farmers need to use large machines to plow the land and harvest the crop, increasing carbon emissions due to reliance on diesel tractors and machines. The logistic process from farms to the processing areas, storage systems and markets is another factor contributing to the global emission. Currently, soil quality is reducing in most areas; hence, farmers must rely on chemical farming, affecting the soil quality.
Due to deforestation and erosion, soy farming also affects biodiversity by increasing pollutants flowing into water sources. Rivers and streams closer to big soy farms are at more risk of pollution and siltation due to the size of farms located closer.
Despite being critical for fighting global hunger, reducing environmental pollution and helping people meet other balanced diet needs, soy farming can negatively affect the environment. The negative effects include deforestation, erosion and the use of machinery in crop production. However, these negative effects are easy to manage if governments enforce strong environmental laws.