Brazilian Government Orders Closing of Cargill's Soy Processing Plant in Amazon

Feature story - March 24, 2007
Just months after Greenpeace activists blocked the facility, Cargill's soy processing plant in the heart of the Amazon rainforest has been shut down by the Brazilian government.

Greenpeace investigations have revealed that huge amounts of Amazon rainforest have been destroyed for soy cultivation, which threatens biodiversity and contributes to global warming. Most of the soy processed by Cargill's Santarem facility is shipped to Europe, where it is used for chicken feed for fast food restaurants and supermarkets there.

The shutdown is a result of a request by the Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution (MPF) to the Brazilian Environmental Agency (IBAMA), to "inspect and immediately stop the operations of Cargill port as well as condemn the North American multinational for illegal operation." The Regional Federal Court (TRF, in Portuguese), through Federal Judge Souza Prudente ordered the complete fulfillment of a decision made in 2000, which suspended all permits issued for Cargill port in Santarem, which does not comply with the Brazilian laws which demand an Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) for such facilities.

A historical decision

The suspension of Cargill port activities in Santarém is the culmination of many years of demands by local communities and those who oppose the expansion of soy cultivation in the Amazon rainforest. According to the Federal Prosecutor in Santarém, Felipe Friz Braga, "this is a historical decision and it changes the pattern of lack of governance in the region."

"This is an important day for the Amazon rainforest and for its people. Thanks to the constant  efforts of the Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution in Pará State, a big step forward has been taken in enforcing the responsible use of natural resources and bringing greater governance in the Amazon,"  said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Coordinator in Brazil. "We trust that Cargill will respect this decision and conduct a broad environmental impact assessment, which will result in concrete measures to minimize the impacts of its port and soy expansion in the region. In that way, the company will also confirm its commitment to the moratorium on further deforestation for soy planting, announced in Brazil last year," He continued.

Ongoing Greenpeace research has revealed the impacts of soy cultivation on the world's largest tropical rainforest, and in May 2006, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise blocked the port while activists protested at the facility.  The legal battle over the Santarem facility has been raging since 2000. Cargill has now lost all appeals against the injunction, which was judged in February 2006. The Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution was notified in January 2007 and in turn requested that IBAMA (on February 26) inspect the Santarem facility. In a last attempt to delay action, Cargill presented a judicial injunction on March 7 to hinder the Ministry of Public Prosecution from acting or issuing orders for the closure of the port. The company also attempted to block IBAMA inspection and the consequent embargo of the port. However, the Federal Judge in Santarem Francisco de Assis Garcês Castro Junior denied the company's request a week later.