Hamburgers and the rainforest – a review of issues and evidence

Abstract
This paper examines the relationship between North American beef consumption and deforestation in South and Central America. Some writers have argued that consumption of hamburgers in North America, particularly hamburgers consumed in fast food restaurants, contributes to the depletion of the rainforest in South and Central America. We survey the published policy literature on the causes of rainforest depletion in the region. We also review the published estimates of the rate and extent of clearing of rainforest that has occurred in South and Central America since 1970. Finally, we review the data on beef imports and consumption in Canada and the United States in a effort to assess the importance of South and Central America as suppliers of beef to the North American market. We conclude that the relationship between beef consumption in North America should not be considered an important cause of forest depletion in South and Central America. Domestic policies and market forces in the countries where rainforests are located are the leading causes of rainforest depletion in this region. This lesson seems to have been lost on some popular and even some textbook writers on this subject.
Keywords Rainforest depletion  hamburgers  fast food  Brazilian Amazon
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