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Brazil Court Shuts Down US Soy Giant Cargill for Destroying Amazon

Cargill facility in Santarém, Pará, Brazil

Cargill facility in Santarém, Pará, Brazil Brazil's Environmental Agency IBAMA has shut down a huge soy processing and  shipping facility erected in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. Environmental organization Greenpeace accuses the facility of being built illegally. The place will stay closed while Brazilian environmental authorities assess its ecological impact.

The facility, built by Minneapolis-based, US commodity giant Cargill in Santarém, in the northern state of Pará, has been at the center of a controversy after Greenpeace discovered that huge tracts of the Amazon were being destroyed to grow soy. which is shipped from the facility to Europe, to provide cheap feed for chicken which is then sold in fast food outlets and supermarkets.

The development is result of a request by the Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution (MPF) to "inspect and immediately stop the operations of Cargill port as well as condemn the north-American multinational for illegal operation". The Regional Federal Court (TRF, in Portuguese) confirmed the decision.

The TRF Judge Souza Prudente ordered the complete fulfillment of the decision made in 2000, which suspended all permits issued for Cargill port in Santarém. The port does not comply with the Brazilian laws which demand Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) for this kind of venture.

According to the MPF: "the judicial order ends the multinational's assumption of non complying with the injunction, hinder its activities in the region and ensure that the Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out in order to have the port functioning."

According to the Federal Prosecutor in Santarém, Felipe Friz Braga, "this is a historical decision and it changes the pattern of lack of governance in the region."

The suspension of Cargill port activities in Santarém is the culmination of many years of demands by the local communities in Santarém and those who fight the expansion of soy in the Amazon. Soy and other products from the agribusiness are key drivers for deforestation, threatening huge loss of biodiversity and contributing to climate change.

"This is an important day for the Amazon rainforest and for its people. Thanks to the non-stop efforts of the Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution in Pará State, 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 (EIA), which will result in concrete measures to minimize the impacts by its port and soy expansion in the region. In that way, the company will also confirm its commitment to the moratorium on further deforestation for soy planting, announced by the soy sector in Brazil last year" he continued.

Since 2003, Greenpeace has supported the fight of the local communities who, together with the Federal Public prosecution office, initiated a campaign against the Cargill's port, demanding that a proper environmental assessment was carried out. In 2006, the environmental organization published an extensive investigation on the impact of soy expansion in the Amazon.

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

The deadline for IBAMA's inspection at the Cargill port initially expired on the March 12, but it was extended by the Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution at the request of IBAMA. Since 2000, the MPF has been engaged in judicial battle in order to have a thorough Environmental Impacts Assessment carried out.

However, instead of complying with the Brazilian environmental law, Cargill exploited the shortcomings of a complex Brazilian legal system and, through a long judicial battle, bought time to construct and operate the terminal without assessing its potentially enormous environmental impact.

In a last attempt to delay the embargo of the port, on March 7, Cargill presented a judicial injunction trying to hinder the Ministry of Public Prosecution of acting or publishing acts for the closure of the port.

The company also aimed to hinder IBAMA inspection and the consequent embargo of the port. However, the Federal Judge in Santarém Francisco de Assis Garcês Castro Junior denied the company's request a week later.

The Brazilian Judiciary decision signed by the Federal Judge Dimis da Costa Braga in 2000 is now in force. This demands Cargill to conduct an Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) to regulate the functioning of its grain port, constructed at the margins of Tapajós river in Santarém, in the West of Pará state.

The injunction was addressed to the State Secretariat of Science, Technology and Environment (SECTAM) and it prohibited SECTAM from granting any further authorization for the functioning of Cargill's port without the approval of an EIA.

Follows the step-by-step of what has happened during the legal battle on Cargill's port in Santarém:

1. The judicial process had an injunction back in 2000. This injunction is an urgent decision, quickly issued to avoid prejudice to the civil society. In this case, it was granted to suspend the authorization for the functioning of Cargill's port without the approval of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

2. Cargill presented seven appeals from this injunction, but was defeated in every instance for the last seven years. In the Brazilian Judiciary, the appeals can have suspensive effect, which means that the decision that is subject of dispute is not valid while the appeal is being judged. Therefore, even with a contrary decision from the Judiciary, Cargill could get authorization and constructed the port.

3. The existence of an appeal does not stop its normal course through the legal channels. And following its normal course, this process got its sentence in 2004, from Judge Fabiano Verli, of Federal Justice in Santarém, condemning Cargill to conduct an EIA. This decision was considered conclusive because it analyses the merit of the issue.

4. Cargill appealed against the sentence, with a civil injunction which is still to be analyzed by the Tribunal Regional Federal da 1ª Região (high court, but not the highest). Meanwhile the 2004 sentence is still to be judged, the 2000 injunction is in force.

5. As Cargill has lost all appeals against the injunction, which was judged in February 2006, its content must now be complied with. The Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution was notified in January 2007 and, therefore, requested the Brazilian Environmental Agency, IBAMA (on the 26th February), to inspect Cargill's terminal in Santarém.

The Federal Ministry of Public Prosecution yet confirms that no impact assessment of any kind was conducted for the construction of Cargill's port.

At the time the company requested a license, it did present a Environmental Control Plan (PCA), which is more used to prevent accidents and it is not appropriate for high impacts activities, according to the Brazilian legislation.

The understanding that the PCA is not adequate and, therefore, the EIA is necessary was acclaimed by all judges that analyzed the issue.


  • Show Comments (7)

  • forrest allen brown

    what rich brazilian wants a bigger peice of the pie
    China and Brazil Reach Agreement on Soy Oil
    Written by LÀƒ­lian de Macedo
    Tuesday, 25 January 2005

    The Chinese government guaranteed that it will not reject shipments of crude soy oil from Brazil. The possibility of an embargo stems from the fact that the amount of solvents used in the Brazilian product is greater than what Chinese law allows.

  • forrest allen brown

    how many brazilians lost there jobs today
    Brazil Fears Many Soybean Growers Will Be Ruined
    Written by Benedito MendonÀƒ§a
    Thursday, 13 January 2005

    A study by the Applied Economic Research Institute (Ipea) shows that the amount of farmland planted with soybeans in Brazil has been expanding an average of 13.8% annually over the last three years.

    However, contrary to the fears of environmentalists, the study found that the soybean “explosion” has not “invaded” virgin land in the Amazon rainforest.

    Rather, it found that most new soybean cropland was “degraded pastureland” that had been recuperated.

    The study pointed out that virgin Amazon rainforest land does not have the necessary infrastructure for the kind of intensive farming that soybeans require.

    “But, that is not true of cattle farming,” warns the report.

    Meanwhile, the government statistical bureau (IBGE) reports that even with lower prices on international markets and rising production costs, it is expected that there will be a 5% increase in Brazilian soybean cropland in 2005, rising to a total of 22,758,000 hectares.

    Total production is expected to reach 63,243,000 tons, an increase of 29%, compared to 2004.

    The IBGE goes on to say that unless there is a sharp decline in soybean production in Argentina or the US (something that will be clear by July or August) the outlook for 2005 is for prices to take a nose dive (after they already took one in 2004).

    According to the IBGE, that could mean “a financial crisis in the Brazilian farm sector due to the probable existence of high levels of debt.”

    That bad news comes on the heels of very good news from the Brazilian farm sector: in 2004 export revenue for farm produce rose 27%, creating a sector record surplus of US$ 34,1 billion. The importance of that can be seen when it is compared to the overall trade surplus of US$ 33.6 billion.

    Translation: Allen Bennett
    AgÀƒªncia Brasil

    and how many will be in court friday to sue cargil for there pay

  • forrest allen brown

    any one read this one also guest had a good post there on google earth
    Soybean Accelerates Brazil’s Deforestation
    Written by AloÀƒ­sio Milani
    Wednesday, 12 January 2005

    The Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) and the Brazilian NGO Forum published a study demonstrating a relationship between the expansion of areas of soybean cultivation and the deforestation of native forests in Brazil, especially in the middle and north of the state of Mato Grosso.

  • forrest allen brown

    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government employeess to save the environment.
    Lets see if it is a big show with little go .

    go after the people that signed off on there paper work in the first place i have see that place so they had to pay some serious money to someone to get it built at one point or another .

    But Waite they will be saved by selective law enforcementÀ‚ À‚ ( culture Brazil )

    later this year it will be sold to a Brazilian company or to the Chinese and all will be OKAY.

    open up the company paperwork and let us see who from the IBAMA let them build in the first place , who was the Governor when it was built .


  • ch.c.

    yessssss very very good !!!!!
    But then all of you should also agree that the grains and sugar cane farmers together ALL Agro Industries in the Amazon such as grains to meals processors,ETHANOL mills, MUST BE SHUT DOWN TOO !!!!

    CORRECT ?????

    Ohhhh…is Mato Grosso and other states not part of the Amazon ???????????

    Did all these farmers and industries do their assessment report…as Cargill was supposed to do, or ARE they…….EXEMPTED ??????

    Bye bye !!!!!!

  • aes

    Short Cargill
    Well good. ‘The mill of the gods grind slow, but grind exceeding fine’. Ah let justice prevail, let Brazil stand up to Cargill in the court. Tis the thing the multi nationals fear most, it is the only thing they fear. If there is no court, if there is no enforcement of law, you are as sheep being kept by foxes.

    Brazil has infinite water, why are there any deserts in Brazil when water could be piped anywhere in Brazil. Pipe is cheap, irrigation of land that is already cleared makes consumate sense.

  • bo

    I think this is great! Brazil needs to do what it needs to do! Take care of the amazon, but don’t just attack the multi-nationals, attack everyone that is participating in illegal activities including brazilians! Arrest the brazilian politicians and judges in the amazon that have been allowing these practices to happen.

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