The US based Cargill corporation burns large areas of rainforest to prepare for soya plantations.
Over the past week we documented huge deforested areas in
Santarem, many still on fire, all being cleared for soya
plantations. The aerial images confirm that the attack of private
companies on the forest continues out of control and we delivered
the images to the federal prosecutors.
The expansion of Brazil's soya market is fuelling an emerging
cycle of deforestation. Over three-quarters of a million hectares
of soya was planted within the Amazon deforestation belt by the end
Three forces are driving soya expansion in Para state - low land
prices, the lack of funding for an effective government inspection
infrastructure, and the construction of Cargill's soya handling
facilities in Santarem.
But federal prosecutors just announced that they will launch
legal action in the federal courts calling for demolition of
Cargills' soya handling facilities in Santarem. The federal
prosecutors will also ask for the immediate suspension of the US
corporation's activities in Santarem until the courts reach their
Brazilian law the construction of the Cargill facility required
prior preparation and approval of an Environmental Impact
Assessment. Instead of complying, they chose to contest this
requirement in the courts. After four years of court challenges,
late last month the Court of Final Instance ruled unanimously
against Cargill. However, in the interim, the multinational giant
constructed their facility in Santarem's main beach, in violation
of the law. Twenty-five families were displaced in the construction
of the facilities.
At the announcement, Federal Prosecutor Felicio Pontes said
"Cargill believed that because they were a powerful multinational,
they could disrespect both Brazilian legislation and the
environment. The court decision shows that they were wrong."
Way to go federal prosecutors - a victory for the people and the
Before the completion of the Cargill facility, one hectare of
rural land in the region cost R$50 (US$13). With the arrival of
"gauchos", as the soya producers are called, the price per hectare
skyrocketed to R$900 (US$300). Entire rural communities were
displaced, the inhabitants having sold their land rights and moved
to the city.
Based on our ongoing field investigations, we believe that
deforestation this year will be even higher than last year. There
is a growing and very dangerous trend appearing.
Traditionally cattle ranchers would move into areas that loggers
had exploited, and clear the land for pastures. Empirical data now
indicates that cattle ranchers continue to push into new areas that
are being deforested, after exhaustive exploitation by loggers,
later selling the areas to the soya producers. At the same time the
soya producers are burning large tracts of the forest solely for
conversion to large-scale agriculture
August 2001 and August 2002 deforestation in Brazil's Amazon
increased 40 percent compared to the previous 12 months. Analysis
of satellite images by the National Institute of Space Research
(INPE) show that the destruction dramatically expanded beyond what
is known as the "Arc of Deforestation" - that runs from the east
and south of Para state towards Acre state - and is cutting deeper
and deeper into the heart of the untouched forest. According to the
Ministry of Environment, this deforestation is a direct result of
the invasion of soya producers.
The burning question the government must answer: do they want to
contain deforestation, support and promote sustainable
alternatives, and strengthen the Ministry of Environment, or lose
immense areas of the Amazon to predatory exploitation?
Until then, the fires rage on.
Watch video shot while flying over the burning forest and the
resulting huge soya fields. Formats:
Quicktime (6.5 MBytes),
Windows media(4.8 MBytes),
Real media,(4.3 MBytes).