McDonald's pledges to help protect the Amazon

Feature story - July 25, 2006

A small soy plant was destroying the world's largest rainforest. How? Soy traders were burning down the Amazon to clear room for a vast industry of soy production that was feeding into the fast food industry in Europe. That's right, nuggets of Amazon forest were being served up on a platter at McDonald's restaurants throughout Europe.

That was yesterday. Today, McDonald's has agreed to stop selling chicken fed on soya grown in newly deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest.

Soy key driver of Amazon destruction

In recent years, the seemingly unstoppable expansion of soy farming in the Amazon had become one of the main threats to the Amazon rainforest. The soy wasn't being used to feed the world; instead it was used to feed farm animals destined for fast food and supermarket chains across Europe.

In April we launched our campaign exposing the food retailer's role in rainforest destruction. Our report, Eating Up the Amazon, detailed how McDonald's and other companies were implicated in deforestation, land-grabbing, slavery and violence. Since then there has been a sea change in attitude among the food industry towards the problem.

The result is that McDonald's and other big food retailers have worked with us to develop a zero deforestation plan. The plan will also help bring an end to the land-grabbing and social injustice that is rife in the Amazon.

Pressure for change

By committing to the plan, the companies' massive buying power has created a huge demand for soy that hasn't been grown in the ashes of the rainforest. This put pressure on the 'big five' soy traders - Cargill, ADM, Bunge, Dreyfus and Amaggi to come to the negotiating table with the future of large areas of the Amazon rainforest at stake.

In response to the pressure, the soy traders have only committed to a limited two year moratorium of buying soy from deforested areas. The two-year time frame of the soy traders moratorium risks being no more than a token gesture, unless the traders deliver real change to protect the Amazon.

Greenpeace is demanding that the moratorium stays until proper procedures for legality and governance are in place and until there is an agreement with the Brazilian Government and key stakeholders on long term protection for the Amazon rainforest. A working group will be established, made up of soy traders, producers, NGOs, and government to put in place an action plan.

Karen Van Bergen, Vice President of McDonald's Europe said, "When we were first alerted to this issue by Greenpeace, we immediately reached out to our suppliers, other NGOs and other companies to resolve this issue and take action. We are determined to do the right thing together with our suppliers and the Brazilian government, to protect the Amazon from further destruction. The two-year time frame set for the initiative is, we hope, indicative of the sense of urgency with which the soy traders wish to implement the governance program and all of its conditions. We expect that should some of the measures take longer than the stated two years to implement, the moratorium would remain in existence until all commitments have been fulfilled."

There are some companies, however, who refuse to play ball. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), have point-blank refused to discuss their role in Amazon destruction and so we need to show them how isolated they're becoming.

Take Action

Tell the Colonel that if Ronald McDonald can help protect the Amazon, so can he.