Over 8 million hectares are covered by forested lands suitable for soya cultivation, and lack any official protection.
A landmark moratorium on Brazilian soya that was set to end on the last day of February has been renewed for one last year.
The initiative prevents major traders selling soya that may be linked to deforestation in the Amazon, which has recently been increasing.
The extension of the moratorium comes just a couple of months after the Brazilian government announced a 28% increase in Amazon deforestation rates.
This was the first official data on Amazon deforestation to come to light since Brazil controversially changed the Forest Code in 2012. This move, backed by the country's powerful farmers' lobby, weakened legislation on forest conservation and land use.
Sanity prevails - for now
Paulo Adario, Senior Forest Advisor for Greenpeace International tentatively welcomed today's decision:
"By agreeing to extend the Soya Moratorium, traders are responding to their customers' demands for Brazilian soya without deforestation, as well as listening to the Brazilian government and civil society.
"Although they have committed to keep the upcoming soya harvest free from Amazon deforestation, the challenges ahead remain enormous as long term protection is still to be secured."
8 million hectares of forest at risk
The Soya Moratorium monitors 62 municipalities responsible for almost all of the soya produced in the Amazon. In this immense region, over 8 million hectares are covered by forested lands suitable for soya cultivation, and lack any official protection.
The moratorium has been keeping bulldozers away from here - an area three times the size of Belgium.
Central to Brazil's amended Forest Code is the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR), which is still being developed. Fast-tracking this registration of rural properties is essential for bringing further governance to the Amazon and monitoring those responsible for deforestation.
The Soya Working Group (GTS) has agreed to design a mechanism to replace the moratorium once it expires. This is to be developed and tested over 2014 and will be focussed on the implementation of the Federal CAR (SiCAR).
Negotiations now under way will be critical
"Deforestation on the rise again and new soya export infrastructure is in the pipeline at the heart of the Amazon, so the discussions ahead are critical", said Adario.
"Today is the start of those negotiations. Only the talks - and the actual steps taken - over the next year will define how seriously the soya traders take their industry and clients. A new agreement must be even more robust than the current moratorium"
Greenpeace will continue to work to end deforestation as it strives to prevent catastrophic climate change - the two major threats to the planet's largest remaining rainforest.
Soya traders seeking solutions
In 2006 ABIOVE (Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industry) and ANEC (National Association of Cereals Exporters) announced a two-year moratorium on buying soya from newly deforested areas in the Amazon or from farmers using indentured or forced labourers.
ABIOVE and ANEC members, including major commodities giants Cargill, Bunge, ADM, Dreyfus and the Brazilian-based Ammagi are responsible for more than 90% of the Brazilian soya trade.
A Soya Working Group (GTS) including ABIOVE, ANEC, soya traders, NGOs and social organisations was also established in October 2006 to ensure the implementation of the moratorium.
Big retailers pressure decisive
The moratorium has been renewed regularly since 2006, but doubts emerged over the latest renewal which has just taken place.
A European alliance of soya consumer companies called for the extension of the moratorium beyond January 2014 and were prepared to renew their commitment to remaining actively engaged in the GTS.
Led by McDonald's, the group also includes Carrefour, Nestle, Tesco, Ahold, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Asda.
The moratorium has helped - but not enough
The Soya Moratorium has helped reduce deforestation in the Amazon. Since 2006, over 700,000 hectares of forest has been cleared in the 62 soya-producing municipalities covered by the moratorium, which account for 97% of soya grown within the Amazon ecosystem.
Only 4% of the 700,000 hectares of labd cleared after 2006 were planted with soya in the soya planting season of 2012-13.