WWF: Netherlands a huge contributor to global deforestation

THE HAGUE - The Netherlands carries the undesirable title of being one of the five European Union front-runners that caused deforestation in South America and Southeast Asia between 2007 to 2015. The Netherlands, along with Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, were responsible for eighty percent of deforestation caused by EU imports of raw material, according to a report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

When it comes to deforestation per capita, the Netherlands had the highest rate in the EU at 18 square meters annually per person. During the time that data was gathered, the Netherlands was responsible on average for the deforestation of almost 30 thousand hectares of rainforest every year for the production of goods, such as coffee, chocolate, palm oil and soybeans.

Overall, the EU was reported to be responsible for the deforestation of nearly five million hectares of tropical forests every year. In total, that means sixteen percent of global deforestation was attributed to the EU as a whole, just behind China at 24 percent.

The Netherlands was also named as one of the largest European importers of soybeans. Farmers commonly use soybeans to feed their cattle. Soybean plantations are usually created in rainforest or savanna areas where they cause soil erosion, water contamination and diminish biodiversity.

The Dutch association Nevedi, which represents the animal feed industry, emphasized that the Netherlands also exports a large amount of soy products to other European countries. “The use of soymeal for Dutch farm animals is two million tons per year which makes for 0.005 percent of global production”, the director of Nevedi, Henk Flippsen said to NOS.

According to WWF resource expert Sandra Mulder tropical rainforests shelter a wide range of plants and animals. Replanting trees is often a difficult task because deforestation and the farming of one single plant leaves the land barren.

The WWF and other environmental conservationists have campaigned in the European Commission to forbid rainforest deforestation. In May, the European Commission will present a bill on deforestation.

Nevedi has claimed that to completely halt the import of soy and palm oil products is not realistic. “The control and certification from Europe would thus disappear and the soy and palm companies that have already invested in making their crops more sustainable would then be abandoned”, Flipssen said. He has stated that Nevedi is looking into alternatives for protein sources in Europe. 

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