'Smoking gun' in McDonald's hands
The full article is available here
The 7,000km journey that links Amazon destruction to fast food
by John Vidal, environment editor, Guardian.
A handful of the world's largest food companies and commodity traders,
including McDonald's in the UK, are driving illegal and rapid
destruction of the Amazon rainforest, according to a six-year
investigation of the Brazilian soya bean industry.
published today, follows a 7,000km chain that starts with the clearing
of virgin forest by farmers and leads directly to Chicken McNuggets
being sold in British and European fast food restaurants. It also
alleges that much of the soya animal feed arriving in the UK from
Brazil is a product of "forest crime" and that McDonald's and British
supermarkets have turned a blind eye to the destruction of the forest.
The report, by Greenpeace investigators, details how the world's largest
private company, the $70bn (40bn) a year US agribusiness giant
Cargill, has built a port and 13 soya storage works in the Amazon
region. It provides farmers with seeds and agrochemicals to grow
hundreds of thousands of tonnes of beans a year, which the company then
exports to Liverpool and other European ports, mainly from Santarem, a
city on the Amazon river.
From Liverpool, much of the high protein soya, which is used as
animal feed, goes to Hereford-based Sun Valley, a wholly owned Cargill
subsidiary that rears chickens. The company provides McDonald's, the
largest fast food company in the world, with up to 50% of all the
chicken it serves in Britain and across Europe.
Greenpeace, public and indigenous land is being seized by farmers using
bulldozers and even slave labour. Last year more than 25,000 sq
kilometres (10,000 sq miles) of Amazon forest were felled, largely for
Much of the damage, says the report, has followed
the entry of large multinational firms. Using satellite photography and
government records, Greenpeace claims it can pinpoint where the
destruction has taken place. For instance, only five years ago, much of
the land around Santarem was heavily forested. But when Cargill
announced plans to build two grain silos, a $20m terminal and its own
port, it had a momentous impact. Satellite images show that in two
years, deforestation rates doubled to 28,000 hectares (69,000 acres) a
year, land prices rocketed and soya took off as farmers from all over
Brazil arrived to take advantage of guaranteed markets.
that soya would have been trucked to Cargill's silos in Santarem, then
shipped to feed Sun Valley-reared chickens that would be sold to
The scale of Amazon deforestation due to soya
expansion driven in part by demand from UK and other European firms is
unprecedented, says Greenpeace. About 14,000 hectares in the
Santarem/Belterra areas now produce 34,000 tonnes of soya a year.
Further south, Mato Grosso has become Brazil's largest soya-producing
state and the one with the greatest deforestation.
Cargill, which dominates much of world trade in commodities, makes
no secret of actively aiding soya farmers in Amazon states. According
to Greenpeace, its help is fuelling the development of large soya farms
only made viable by the infrastructure the company has put in place.
are driving the destruction of the forest, says the report, including
Brazil's "soya king", Blairo Maggi, and other US grain companies. Mr
Maggi, the governor of Mato Grosso, is the world's largest individual
soya grower and has accessed $30m of World Bank loans to help finance
soya growing on 2m hectares, much of it former rainforest. Forest
destruction, says Greenpeace, has increased near all the soya
facilities, and soya is the most powerful destroyer of the Amazon.
"Most of the land in the Amazon is classed as 'empty' land and is
unprotected and vulnerable. Soya farmers target these areas. They use
loggers and bulldozers to clear and burn it in readiness of the crop."
It adds: "What makes the new assault even more damaging is that farmers
have access to cheap credit and a guaranteed market ... The rainforest
is largely beyond the law so the risks are low. Such activities in
effect constitute perverse financial subsidies for Europe's cheap meat."
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