US-China Trade Wars and the Cerrado

Recently, Nature published a paper stating that the trade wars between China and the US could hurt the Amazon rainforest.

This is an interesting train of thought which I’ve been addressing for a while during trade shows. Soybean farmers in Brazil have been enthusiastic since the start of these trade wars, precisely because China is the main customer of Brazil’s yearly yield of soybeans.

With a Chinese middle class of over 400 million people eager to adopt the Western diet, there is a huge demand for high protein animal feed, and that’s where soybeans come in.

China has growing, widespread hydric problems and is clearly importing a crop it can’t afford to grow enough of in its own soil. Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of soybean as a means of virtual water flow in the Nature paper: it would debunk a few of its suggestions for mitigating this and future trade wars, particularly growing crops locally in an increasingly water-stressed global scenario. 

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Until the trade wars, the Chinese soybean demand was torn between the US and Brazil. Now, with China focusing its attention on Brazilian soybeans, there is a perfect excuse to increase production in a very short amount of time. Brazil, after all, is going through the biggest economic crisis in its history; it could use a boost from the agribusiness. Is there a simpler, cheaper and faster way to vacate the land for this than deforesting?

Mainstream media, however, still believes Amazonia to be a stand-alone biome, not realizing that it is fed by other environments as much as it feeds them.

Enter the Cerrado.

For the last 20 years, most of the deforestation in Brazil has been happening in the Cerrado, but now it has been making a comeback onto the Amazon rainforest – in fact, wherever water tables are abundant, as soybean crops are incredibly water intensive.

With the demand for soybeans, such intensiveness brings two main problems: the virtual water flow associated with them and deforestation to make room for them. The first is essentially moving water, now contained in soybeans, from Brazil to China. The latter is what makes Cerrado water a non-renewable resource.

The Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado are co-dependent, as they share their water cycle. Cerrado trees form a deep root network sitting on a high altitude plateau in the heart of the continent. This makes the area act as a water tower for over a third of the rainforest and the bottom half of South America. Those deep roots make the soil porous, allowing rainfall to recharge water tables that become major South American rivers.

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When rainfall comes from the Atlantic Ocean onto the Amazon rainforest, it reaches critical mass and becomes a phenomenon called “flying rivers” – a continuous dense mass of rainclouds flowing southwest, that is contained by the Andes and bounces east towards the Cerrado. A large chunk of this water then flows back north, making up 1/3 of the rainforest water mass through the Tapajós, Xingu, Araguaia and Tocantins rivers.

The deep root network responsible for this flow is called the “inverted forest“, as the native vegetation is frequently 1/3 above ground and 2/3 underground. It goes without saying that because of this, the Cerrado is a major carbon sink in the planet as well. Hence, deforesting for exporting soybeans is adding insult to injury, releasing carbon in the atmosphere, exporting virtual water, and making sure aquifers and streams will not replenish by getting rid of the only way they can recharge, amongst other nefarious effects.

The intense deforestation of the Cerrado savanna is quite worrying, as the Amazon rainforest is suffering from a phenomenon called “self-amplified forest loss“. It is happening precisely at the Amazon-Cerrado border, where water stress is growing due to Cerrado deforestation. A few recent studies point out a considerable portion of rainforest will become grassland, due to the lack of critical water mass for its trees.

 

The critical water mass we speak of is, of course, dependant on both water streams and rainfall. Trees not only fix water into the soil but through transpiration, return water to the atmosphere and allow for regular, less violent rainfall. Without it, droughts become more intense, and rainfall abrupt, destructive and useless due to the gradual compacting of the soil.

It is worth mentioning again that this massive soybean production is based on the very area it is dependant for water. Lax protection due to undermined public institutions and legislation, plus the current Bolsonaro office, makes for a perfect storm.

Thus, the loss of the “inverted forest” would, in a not so distant future, induce the partial collapse of the Brazilian breadbasket due to water stress, with considerable consequences to the international markets. A possible collapse of the Amazon rainforest could also entail a further partial collapse of the US breadbasket due to climate disruption.

The simultaneous failure of both agricultural powerhouses could mean a global, widespread shortage of meat and other food products in not so many years. We can only speculate on the effect of this climate shift in international markets and ultimately, the global balance of power.

Brazil, however, depends heavily on its agricultural production and shows no political will to diversify its economy anytime soon. Both Cerrado and Amazonia are being held hostage with dire implications to the global economy, but will the world pay attention soon enough?

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Shand Santos is the founder of Baru Baron.

 

Make Way For The Perfect Keto Snack

The ketogenic diet has become quite popular recently. Studies have found that this very low-carb, high-fat diet is effective for weight loss, diabetes and epilepsy. There’s also early evidence to show that it may be beneficial for certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases, too. ¹

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A ketogenic diet typically limits carbs to 20–50 grams per day. While this may seem challenging, many nutritious foods can easily fit into this way of eating. You certainly have a selection of keto snacks, but are they really that good?

Enter baru seeds. They are non-starchy vegetables, with a very low net carb count, but high in many nutrients and healthy fats, which makes them a perfect fit for a ketogenic diet.

Healthy Fats

Baru seeds are high in healthy fats, and some studies suggest that baru may help protect against heart disease. It also has an optimal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio rarely found in other vegetables, a balance of healthy fats that many keto adopters strive to maintain. A study found evidence that baru seeds may help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Fibre

Fibre can help you feel full and absorb fewer calories overall. That happens because your body doesn’t digest and absorb fibre like other carbs. And baru seeds have a lot of them!

Let’s look at their digestible (or net) carb count, which is total carbs minus fibre. 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of baru contain 7 grams of carbs. However, 5 of these are fibre, so its net carb count is only 2 grams. Having that in mind, baru seeds make great substitutes for higher-carb oily seeds, like cashews.

Protein

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They’re also a great source of high-quality protein, which has been shown to help preserve muscle mass during a very low-carb diet.

Vitamin E

On top of that, baru seeds contain massive amounts of Vitamin E antioxidants. They protect against free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage.

So in a nutshell: one ounce (28 grams) of baru seeds provides 3 gram of fibre, 7 grams of protein, 8 grams of healthy fats and 35% of the RDI for Vitamin E.

They are also high in several important minerals, including potassium and magnesium, which many people may not get enough of. What’s more, a higher potassium and magnesium intake may help make the transition to a ketogenic diet easier.

Many ketogenic enthusiasts avoid lectins. These are specific plant-based proteins common in many well-known Legumes. Lectins could play a major role in gut inflammation and an individual’s inability to lose weight, according to Dr. Steven R. Gundry in his book The Plant Paradox. Baru seeds, however, have no detectable lectins, even though they are high in plant-based protein. ²

In addition to the absence of lectins, a recent study found that adding 20g baru to a normocaloric diet has a weight control and weight loss effect. This is mostly due to a synergy of its fibre, healthy fats and protein content on satiety.

For all this, baru seeds are quite possibly the best possible natural snack for keto enthusiasts if compared to other oily seeds and Legumes. Taking into account its high fat content, high protein, high fibre, low net carbs and lack of lectins, baru seeds are certainly the ideal keto snack!

REFERENCES

2. TOGASHI, M.; SGARBIERI, V. C. Caracterização química parcial do fruto do baru (Dipteryx alata, Vog.). Ciência e Tecnologia de Alimentos, Campinas, v.14, n.1, p.85-95,1994.

11th Protein Summit 2018

Hey everyone! Baru Baron is one of the shortlisted companies in the Bridge2Food Protein Awards 2018 happening at the 11th Protein Summit 2018 in Lille, France!

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Baru Baron’s baru seeds are one of three finalists in the category “Most Novel Protein Ingredients” and the winner will be announced on October 25th. This is great recognition for baru seeds and the Cerrado savanna!

You can check out more info at the Bridge2Food_2018_Protein_Summit_Protein_Awards_Finalists_Press_Release.

The Blue Macaw Syndrome

Last week we saw an official report by BirdLife International stating the extinction of the blue macaw in its original habitat. Although the bird is still alive in captivity, this was an announced tragedy.

When I was a kid in Brazil, the blue macaw was already endangered, and everyone knew about it. It was in Brazilian comic books, TV shows, news, over and over. That was 25+ years ago.

Back then the Amazon rainforest was the main worry, but overall nobody cared. Political scandals always had the upper hand when it came to the news in Brazil, and there was no shortage of those. spixsmacaw.jpg

Amidst the noise, in the shadows, corporate interest took advantage of the chaos. Anyone who worried about the environment was simply labelled “ecochato”, or “eco-lame” and put aside. More “vocal” individuals were silenced, sometimes by being publicly discredited, more often by plain and simple assassination.

Things got so out of hand that the Amazon rainforest became a global hot topic,  and international pressure demanded its protection. Outside of its territory, however, much deforestation happened since then, widespread, uncontrolled. It merely trickled down to the neighbouring Cerrado and Pantanal.

The extinction of the macaw (and three other bird species according to the report) in Brazil says a lot about the importance of the environment for Brazilian politics and the state of public misinformation there. Currently, 40% of the Brazilian Congress has ties with the agribusiness industry responsible for deforestation. Much of the Brazilian economy revolves around the agribusiness, so why would anyone lift a finger for the environment?

There are efforts on their way to re-introduce the macaw in specific spots of its original habitat. It’s a great thing on its own, but it doesn’t solve any of the habitat loss, nor does it include the other extinct species. It’s merely trying to keep a poster child for biodiversity in place, and who knows for how long considering the current state of affairs regarding climate change.

The way I see it, it’s sweeping a global problem under the rug. We have to blow the whistle on deforestation and bring attention to the macaw extinction as a symptom of a much larger disease called greed.

Shand Santos is the founder of Baru Baron