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Cargill vows to protect Amazon

Published on 25 July, 2006, Last updated at 08:36 GMT

25th July, 2006: Sao Paolo - Soy-farming limits dismissed by critics.

Responding to environmental protests over the loss of Brazilian rainforest, Cargill and other major soybean processors said Monday that they'll refuse to buy soybeans grown on newly deforested land within the vast Amazon region.

Cargill officials hailed the two-year moratorium as "groundbreaking," but Greenpeace officials dismissed it as a mere "baby step." The international activist group has dogged Cargill with noisy protests over the development of soybean-handling facilities inside the Amazon biome.

Cargill and the other companies promised to develop an Amazon mapping and monitoring system to determine whether soybeans are growing on newly deforested lands. They'll also look for ways for farmers to obey strict but poorly enforced Brazilian forestry laws, and will work to better "delineate where agricultural production is appropriate, and which areas ought to be off-limits," said Cargill spokeswoman Lori Johnson.

"We recognize that this is a first step, we also recognize there's more to be done," Johnson added, "but we think it is quite groundbreaking that the industry has come together and decided to take pretty radical steps."

Greenpeace officials had a tepid reaction, partly because they hoped for a permanent moratorium, and partly because they think the plan glosses over whether existing farms are illegal.

But at least the parties are consulting.

This spring, Greenpeace protesters at the Amazon port of Santarem invaded a Cargill soybean loading facility, hung a Greenpeace banner from a loading arm, and were greeted with a water hose, counterprotests and arrests.

Said Greenpeace's Pamela Wellner, "Yes, we talked to them quite a bit about it. We had meetings with them and other soy processors, but we were disappointed that, in the end, this is what happened."

After Greenpeace documented that some illegally grown soybeans wound up as poultry feed in Europe, several customers including McDonald's in Europe, Wal-Mart and several grocery chains instituted new feed restrictions that all their suppliers must obey.


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