Cargill's controversial soya port closed in the Amazon

Feature story - March 29, 2007
In the heart of the Amazon rainforest a huge soya port owned by the giant US company Cargill has just been closed down by the Brazilian Environmental Agency (IBAMA). The orders to close the port came after a seven-year legal battle by the Brazilian Federal Prosecutors over Cargill's failure to provide an environmental impact assessment for the facility.

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is pushed away by Cargill's facility ship during a protest against the company's illegal soya port in the Amazon rainforest. Soya expansion is one of the leading causes of deforestation in the Amazon. The soya is exported to Europe for animal feed.

The port facilities, built by Cargill in Santarém, has been at the centre of a controversy as huge tracts of the Amazon were being destroyed to grow soya which was shipped from the facility to Europe, to provide cheap feed for chicken which is then sold in fast food outlets and supermarkets.

It's been a long struggle. Since 2000 the Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution (MPF) has been engaged in legal battle in order to have a thorough Environmental Impacts Assessment carried out. However, instead of complying with Brazilian environmental law, Cargill has exploited the shortcomings of a complex Brazilian legal system to buy time to construct and operate the terminal without assessing its potentially enormous environmental impacts.

"This is an important day for the Amazon rainforest and for its people. 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 the judiciary and conduct a broad environmental impact assessment, which will result in concrete measures to minimize the impacts by its port and soya expansion in the region. In that way, the company will also confirm its commitment to the moratorium on further deforestation for soya planting, announced by the soya sector in Brazil last year."

The Greenpeace report, ' Eating up the Amazon' revealed that the world-wide demand for soya has been fuelling deforestation of the world's biggest tropical rainforest. In May last year, we launched a high-profile protest in the region, blocking Cargill's Santarem port with our ship, the Arctic Sunrise.

Last year also saw McDonald's being flipped from 'bad guy' to 'good guy' by consumers after it was revealed they purchased soya grown on the ashes of the Amazon rainforest. The unique alliance between Greenpeace and McDonald's that followed was instrumental in creating a moratorium on further destruction of the Amazon for soya.

The suspension of Cargill port activities in Santarém is the culmination of years of demands by the local communities and the people who are fighting the expansion of soya cultivation in the Amazon. Soya and other agricultural products are key drivers for deforestation, threatening huge loss of biodiversity and contributing to climate change.

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