Posted on 11 May 2022
In a video series released today, scientists and experts from across the EU step up to answer the Internet’s most searched questions on deforestation. Their message, summed up: there is no room for deforestation at our kitchen table.
Two years ago, 1.2 million European citizens had asked for a law that would keep deforestation out of their fridges and off their kitchen tables. As ministers in the Environment Council and Members in the European Parliament are discussing a future EU Deforestation law, people at home turn to the World Wide Web for answers. Autocomplete suggestions reveal that the same kind of questions are looked up on the Internet everywhere in Europe: “What is deforestation?”, “What causes deforestation?” and “How can we stop deforestation?”. These inspired scientists and experts from seven countries - Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Sweden - to respond to all those citizens worried about forests. Daily life examples of why deforestation concerns us all, and what we can do about it are gathered in a series of short videos.
Forests cover 31% of the land area on earth. But these are disappearing fast, an area almost the size of Sweden every 12 years. More precisely, over 43 million hectares were lost in the tropics and subtropics between 2004 and 2017, in vast tropical deforestation hotspots in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. And the EU plays a big role in this.
The EU is, in fact, the second biggest importer of deforestation after China. “For Belgium, this represents about 12 to 15,000 hectares per year, about the size of the Brussels region, which are destroyed each year in tropical regions for products in Belgium”, says Patrick Meyfroidt, professor of Land Use Change and Forest Transition, Belgium.
“In the Amazon, the primary reason for this is cattle breeding and soybean production. Most of the soy will be animal feed, and much of the beef will go to North America and Europe. So, with a little exaggeration, we can also say that the primeval forests will become burgers”, explains Dr Réka Aszalós, forest ecologist and employee of the Ecological Research Center, Hungary. More than half of the Cerrado in Brazil, the most biodiverse savannah in the world, located next to the Amazonian rainforest, has already been cleared, mainly to make room for soy and beef production. In 2019, EU imports of beef from the Cerrado accounted for 26% of the EU’s total imported beef.
WWF and nearly 200 other NGOs have long advocated for EU legislation on deforestation through the #Together4Forests campaign and will continue to fight for a law that can make a real change. All eyes are now on EU governments and the European Parliament to deliver ambitious results.
”Living in countries where deforestation is negligible, we need to pay attention to what we consume. The EU is working on a regulation to minimise imported deforestation, but we can all start to question ourselves about the origin of the products we consume, particularly the food that ends up on our plates”, sums up Giorgio Vacchiano, professor of forest management and planning, University of Milan, Italy.
Notes for editors
List of scientists & experts (alphabetically, by country):
Bart Muys, professor of Forest Ecology and Forest Management at the KU Leuven, Belgium; Patrick Meyfroidt, professor of Land Use Change and Forest Transition, Belgium;
Dr Réka Aszalós, forest ecologist and employee of the Ecological Research Center, Hungary; Giorgio Vacchiano, professor of forest management and planning, University of Milan, Italy; Katarzyna Karpa-Świderek, Press Spokeswoman, WWF Poland;
Miguel Bastos Araújo, Research Professor of the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) and visiting Professor at the University of Évora, Portugal;
Radu Melu, National Coordinator of the Forest Department at WWF Romania;
Martin Persson, professor in land-use science at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
Quotes from scientists & experts: