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Brazil’s Amazon Soy Moratorium reduced deforestation


Between 2004 and 2012, multiple policies contributed to one of the great conservation successes of the twenty-first century—an 84% decrease in the rate of Brazilian Amazon deforestation. Among the most prominent of these policies is the Amazon Soy Moratorium (ASM), an agreement by grain traders not to purchase soy grown on recently deforested land. The ASM inspired widespread adoption of similar zero-deforestation commitments, but its impact is poorly understood due to its overlap with other conservation policies. Here, we apply an econometric triple-differences model to remotely sensed deforestation data to isolate the ASM’s impact within Brazil’s Arc of Deforestation. We show that the ASM reduced deforestation in soy-suitable locations in the Amazon by 0.66 ± 0.32 percentage points relative to a counterfactual control, preventing 18,000 ± 9,000 km2 of deforestation over its first decade (2006–2016). Although these results highlight potential benefits of private conservation policies, the ASM’s success was dependent on complementarities with public property registries and deforestation monitoring.

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Fig. 1: Deforestation patterns across Brazil’s Arc of Deforestation.
Fig. 2: Time-varying impacts of the ASM.
Fig. 3: Changes in patterns of soy establishment.

Data availability

All of the data needed to replicate this study are available through the Harvard Dataverse at

Code availability

All of the code needed to reproduce the results, figures and tables is available at


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This paper contributes to the Global Land Programme. Funding was provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation’s Civil Society Department under the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative. We thank I. Schelly for outstanding cartographic support.

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R.H., L.L.R. and H.K.G. designed the research. R.H., L.L.R. and J.M. collected the data. R.H. and L.L.R. conducted the analysis. R.H., L.L.R. and H.K.G. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Robert Heilmayr.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Food thanks Andrea Garcia and the other, anonymous, reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary methods, Figs. 1–3 and Tables 1–7.

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Heilmayr, R., Rausch, L.L., Munger, J. et al. Brazil’s Amazon Soy Moratorium reduced deforestation. Nat Food 1, 801–810 (2020).

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