Vegan wolf

Important NEWS
regarding Animals, the planet, your health and the worlds health!

Feedlot Meat Has Spurred a Soy Boom
That Has a Devastating Environmental and Human Cost

Vegan Home
vegan foods
keep on hand
to avoid
VEGAN Recipes
Vegan Cooking Tips
Choosing a SOYMILK
Meatless Meats
In the NEWS
Famous Vegetarians
Vegan Shopping
Great Links
Authors Notes.

Feedlot Meat Has Spurred a Soy Boom
That Has a Devastating Environmental and Human Cost


Alternet March 18, 2011


Feedlot Meat Has Spurred a Soy Boom That Has a Devastating

Environmental and Human Cost


South America is being taken over by a handful of companies in the

soy business that are destroying ecologically sensitive areas and

pushing people from their ancestral land.


By Jill Richardson


Much of South America is rapidly coming to resemble Iowa. Where one

might expect to see virgin Amazon rainforest, lush grasslands or

Patagonian steppe, there are now often monocultures of soybeans,

extending for miles and miles. People and cultures are disappearing

in the transition; small landholders and tenant farmers are being

driven off their land (or pushed deeper into untouched forests or

grasslands); and pasture-based cattle ranches are being replaced by

feedlots. In the feedlots the cattle eat some of the soy produced on

the land where they once would have grazed; but an enormous portion

of the soy is never eaten in South America. Instead, it is exported,

mostly to China or the EU. (The United States is the largest producer

and exporter of soy in the world and is thus not a major market for

South American soy.)


The change has occurred only in the last few decades. Soybeans now

occupy huge swaths of land in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay

and Bolivia. Together, these nations make up five of the world's top

10 soy producers. Most significant among them are Brazil and

Argentina, which together produced over 105 million metric tons of

soybeans in 2008. Half of Argentina's cropland is devoted to soy, and

the crop makes up one-third of the country's exports. And for the

most part, soy cultivation, processing and exporting took off in

these countries since the year 2000. Soy is typically crushed into

meal, which is fed to animals, and made into oil used for biofuels or

added to many food products.


The changes in farming that have accompanied the soy boom would

hardly raise an eyebrow for many Americans, where soy has been a

major crop and livestock feed for decades. After all, the U.S. more

or less invented and then exported this farming model. The soybeans

are grown on large farms, often over 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres),

and sometimes on farms significantly larger than that. As the acreage

devoted to soy grew over the last decade, the land became

concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Soybeans are grown using

commercial fertilizer, herbicides like Roundup (glyphosate),

atrazine, and 2,4-D, insecticides like endosulfan, and fungicides.


In 1996, Argentina was the first to permit GE soy, and now 98 percent

of the nation's soy is genetically engineered. Today, Argentina is

also home to several weeds resistant to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup,

a direct result of overuse of Roundup on GE soy. From Argentina, GE

soy was smuggled and illegally planted in neighboring countries.

Brazil legalized GE soy in 2003, and by 2007, some two-thirds of its

crop was genetically modified.


Along with the soy comes a model of vertical integration and

corporate concentration. Five companies in Argentina -- Cargill,

Bunge, Dreyfus, and two Argentinian companies, Aceitera General

Deheza and Vicentin -- control 80 percent of Argentina's nearly $4.9

billion in soybean oil exports. Similarly, Cargill, Dreyfus, Toepfer,

Archer Daniels Midland, and Nidera control soybean meal. (Argentina's

soy meal exports were worth over $7.1 billion in 2008.) Often,

farmers contract with these companies, which designate how the farmer

is to grow the beans.


As many of the companies are foreign, as are the companies that make

the seeds, fertilizer and pesticides, Paraguayans complain of a

"triple loss of sovereignty: to rely on export earnings from a single

product, transgenic soybeans, the seeds for which are provided by a

single company, the multinational Monsanto; loss of territorial

sovereignty as large areas are leased or purchased by foreign

producers, Brazilians and Argentinians; and also a loss of food

sovereignty, because soy uses monocultures and displaces food

production for dietary staples of the rural population."


Paraguay is not the only country to see production of dietary staples

displaced. Argentinians are also experiencing displacement of cattle

ranches and farms that might otherwise produce grains or vegetables.

The soy boom has driven up land prices, and it has also driven up

food prices, as more land is devoted to soy for export instead of

food for the domestic market. Argentina, a beef-loving country, now

produces half of its beef in its 15,000 feedlots instead of on

pasture. Even Argentina's cowboys, called gauchos, are becoming a

thing of the past.


As the promise of soy profits gobbles up more land, Argentina is

losing some of its fragile ecosystems, like dry forest and the

Patagonian steppe. Much of the soy expansion takes place in the

country's Chaco region. The same is true in other countries as well,

as Brazil sees the loss of its Amazon. However, most of Brazil's soy

production takes place outside of the Amazon. Less internationally

recognized but more threatened by soy production is the Cerrado,

Brazil's savannah that now occupies only 20 percent of its original

area. Likewise, Bolivia's soy is centered in its Chiquitano tropical

dry forests, not its Amazon, and Paraguay is losing its Atlantic



Just as startling as the environmental cost is the human cost of the

soy boom. Certainly, some are getting rich from soy, but as they do,

others are losing their land. Peasant farmers in South America,

particularly the indigenous, often do not have legal titles to land

their families have farmed for generations, making them vulnerable to

having the land sold or stolen right out from under them.


In Argentina, the indigenous complain that loss of land as well as

deforestation leave them unable to hunt, fish, or gather or produce

foods and traditional medicines. The government has responded by

handing out meager food aid packages, which the indigenous see as



In Argentina's soy growing areas, poverty is 37 percent, much higher

than the national average of 20.6 percent. In the province of Chaco,

some 20 to 40 percent of the population is estimated to have left

because of soy production. There, and in Paraguay, soy displaced

cotton, which required more labor than soy and thus provided

employment. Peasants who live near soy cultivation also complain of

health problems due to indiscriminate pesticide spraying.


Why have soybeans suddenly taken off in South America? A new report

by Food and Water Watch traces it to trade deregulation. Since the

WTO was formed in 1995, soy imports to the EU's 15 member countries

prior to 2004 increased by 51.1 percent. In a world of free trade,

soy processing corporations were attracted to the low prices of land

and labor in South America (compared to the costs in the world's

largest soy producing nation, the United States).


Sophia Murphy, a senior adviser at the Institute for Agriculture and

Trade Policy, notes that the EU's recent enthusiasm for soy imports

might have happened with or without the WTO, as the EU already had

reduced tariffs on livestock feed under pressure from the United

States prior to 1995. But whatever the cause, the result is the same.


Today, a full 80 percent of EU's soy imports come from just Brazil

and Argentina. Where does the soy go? Food and Water Watch traces it

to Europe's largest pork and poultry producing nations: Denmark,

France, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Since the WTO went into effect, notes the report, soy meal imports to

these countries rose by 75.3 percent.


With a cheap source of imported feed, Europe has seen an increase in

so-called factory farms, particularly for pork and chicken. (Since

the early 1990s, as the EU increased its imports, the price of soy

has gradually fallen, although right now prices are sky-high.) For

example, notes Food and Water Watch, in 2007, the largest 1 percent

of farms produced 74 million pigs, half of all pigs in the EU. The

concentration of livestock production on enormous farms leads to

environmental degradation. And the increase in cheap meat, often sold

through fast food chains, does not help the health of European

consumers much either.


Food and Water Watch provides a number of policy recommendations to

reverse the trend of increased soy production in South America and

consumption in Europe. First, it recommends, agriculture should be

removed from the WTO and other EU trade deals. FWW also calls out the

Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) and the Round Table on

Sustainable Consumptions as "industry efforts to greenwash the

environmental harm of global, industrial agriculture," and calls on

governments to end both direct and indirect support for these



Perhaps most simply and importantly, Food and Water Watch urges

governments to uphold the law, force companies to pay taxes, and

abide by animal welfare and environmental regulations. Additionally,

it calls on EU governments to "enforce laws that prohibit monopoly

power and economic collusion and prohibit anticompetitive practices"

by supermarkets and grain traders. The EU, for its part, seems to be

headed in the other direction: it has recently loosened its

prohibitions on genetically engineered feed.

Vegan Home
vegan foods
keep on hand
to avoid
VEGAN Recipes
Vegan Cooking Tips
Choosing a SOYMILK
Meatless Meats
In the NEWS
Famous Vegetarians
Vegan Shopping
Great Links
Authors Notes.

Please, Consider Making a Donation


100% goes toward keeping VeganWolf online
and Spreading a compassionate way of Life

Email Veganwolf