Feature story - 6 April, 2006
It is a globally known symbol: the golden arches can be seen in many countries around the world. But whatever the fast food giant wants you to believe the golden arches stand for, McDonald's today stands for rainforest destruction. And that is one very 'Unhappy Meal' for the planet.

Greenpeace activists occupy an area in 1,645 hectares of the Amazon that has been illegally deforested.

The Amazon rainforest needs no introduction; the mere mention of itsname conjures up images of a huge untouched wilderness bursting withamazing life. But to McDonald's and a handful of huge soya traders, theAmazon means something completely different. It means cheap land andcheap labour. Cheap land because it is often stolen, cheap labourbecause some of the people who work cutting down the forest or work onthe farms in the Amazon are actually slaves.  You heard it right,slaves.

UPDATE, JULY 25, 2006: Thanks to enormous pressure from the thousands of emails and letterssent to their European headquarters by you, our supporters, McDonald'shas agreed to stop selling chicken fed on soya grown in newlydeforested areas of the Amazon rainforest.

'How is this possible,' you ask? Well it goes something like this.

Thesoya traders encourage farmers to cut down the rainforest and plantmassive soya monocultures. The traders take the soya and ship it toEurope where it is fed to animals like chickens and pigs. The animalsare then turned into fast food products like McDonald's McNuggets andmany other products found in fast food outlets and supermarkets.

Thejourney from rainforest to restaurant might sound simple enough but ithas taken a year-long investigation using satellite images, aerialsurveillance, previously unreleased government documents andon-the-ground monitoring to expose.  What we found was a globaltrade in soya from rainforest destruction in the Amazon to McDonald'sfast food outlets and supermarkets across Europe.

Most of the global trade insoya is controlled by a small number of massive traders: Cargill




Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)

. In Brazil, this cartel plays the roleof bank to the farmers. Instead of providing loans they give farmersseed, fertiliser and herbicides in return for soya at harvest: Bungealone provided the equivalent of nearly US$1 billion worth of seed,fertiliser and herbicides to Brazilian farmers in 2004.

Thisgives the companies indirect control over huge areas of land that usedto be rainforest. Together, these three companies are responsible foraround 60 percent of the total financing of soya production in Brazil.

Thestate of Mato Grosso is Brazil's worst in terms of deforestation andforest fires, accounting for nearly half of all the deforestation inthe Amazon in 2003-04. In Mato Grosso, the governor, Blairo Maggi, isknown locally as the 'Soya King'. His own massive soya company GrupoAndre Maggi controls much of the soya production in the state and sincehis election in 2002, forest destruction in Mato Grosso has increasedby 30 percent.

Banks too have been caught up in thedestruction of the Amazon. The International Finance Corporation (IFC)

,the private lending arm of the

World Bank

, wrongly assessed a loan toGrupo Andre Maggi as being of 'low environmental risk,' despiteevidence to the contrary. Other banks have also lent huge sums of moneyto the company without conducting their own environmental or socialimpact audits.

So far, Rabobank

, the Netherlands' biggestagricultural bank has lent over

US$330 million

to Grupo Andre Maggi.Rabobank admitted that it didn't do its own assessment of the risk ofthe loans, simply accepting the (flawed) assessment of the IFC.

So fast food and supermarkets, soya traders and big banks are all trashing the Amazon rainforest.

Ifwe can track soya beans more than 7,000km (4,400 miles) from farms inthe Amazon to chicken products in Europe, there is no excuse for thefood industry not to know where their feed comes from, and to demandthe exclusion of Amazon soya from their supply chain.

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