Hidden soy, hidden violence, hidden pollution

Posted on June, 29 2022

What Europeans don’t know about the food that ends up on their plates

The Brazilian Cerrado, located next to the Amazonian rainforest, is the most biodiverse savannah in the world and home to hundreds of thousands of families. But this place is rapidly disappearing, violently, as local communities resiliently stand up for their rights. Hear their story, in this three episode video series released today as part of the #Together4Forests campaign.

“Brother, these people came here saying that the area was theirs. They brought big machines along, clearing the area, and building  fences. They came with two or three pickup trucks full of armed men”, says Jossone Lopes Leite, Cachoeira community, Formosa do Rio Preto (BA).

Jossone Lopes Leite is part of one of the traditional communities that have been living in the Cerrado savannah for the past 200 years. But now, they face threats and intimidation daily and have already lost most of their land and crops because of mega-farms like the Estrondo. This occupies an area of more than 300,000 hectares of the Brazilian Cerrado, having destroyed this rich savannah. And is turning communities’ lives into a living hell. 

“Look, they've committed a lot of violence against us here. And for us there were times we couldn't go out to take care of our cattle. If I tried, if I went out on my motorcycle, it was likely I wouldn’t make it back” adds Sabino Batista Gomes, Cachimbinha community, Formosa do Rio Preto (BA).

In the 2020/21 harvest alone, the EU imported 16 million tons of soybeans from Brazil. More than 50% of Brazilian soy is produced in the Cerrado. This ended up in most of our meals, but not by choice. Research shows that the average European consumes 60.6 kg of soy per year, since this is the main animal feed used to produce dairy, fish, pork, beef and chicken products. 

“It's crime after crime. It is financed from below, through dirty production schemes, to raise fat cows in Wales, to export meat to the United States, to produce a 7,000-calorie cheeseburger, to cause obesity in children”, explains Iremar Barbosa de Araujo, Couro de Porco community, Correntina (BA).

In Bahia, rivers are drying up and locals find themselves powerless as agribusiness is infiltrating through national legislation, destroying the Cerrado at high speed. Just one  farm can withdraw 106 million litres of water per day from the Arrojado River, one of the main sources of water for local communities.

Soy production also uses the highest amount of pesticides compared to other commodities. “For me, agribusiness is attacking us. It is pushing us to also use pesticides. Because today, I think, we are being forced to eat poisoned food”, adds Adaildo Jose Alves da Silva, Morro D’agua community, Gilbués (PI). 

Half of the pesticides used are considered highly dangerous for humans and are banned in Europe. “Years ago you wouldn't hear about that kind of thing here. High blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, they are now happening a lot. And this must be caused by  these poisons”, says Lucineide de oliveira Sousa, Melancias community, Gilbués (PI)

The Cerrado communities must be heard and the effects on indigneous and local peoples must  be properly addressed in the new Deforestation law. As this law will be voted in the ENVI committee of the European Parliament on 11/12 July, join the #Together4Forests campaign and remind MEPs why we need a law that can deliver real change.

“Europe needs to look at what's happening here, if the EU wants to survive. Because supplies will eventually end here”, concludes Iremar Barbosa de Araujo, Couro de Porco community, Correntina (BA).



© Peter Caton / WWF-UK_