Theater of Cruelty

Weapons, drugs and soy

Only five percent of the fantastic, diverse rainforest in Paraguay is left. Soy production has much to blame.


Soy is one of the most important components of the global community's plan to nourish the world. Soy is found everywhere in today's food products, from chocolate and ice cream to baby food and meatloaf. Soy is also the main ingredient in the power feed our pets are raised with.

Norwegian agriculture and the fish farming industry are now completely dependent on soy in power feed production. Once a month, a ship comes to Denofa AS in Fredrikstad with feed soy from Mato Grosso, Brazil to meet the need. The authorities insist that this soy comes only from selected producers and satisfies Norwegian requirements for "purity": It should not be cultivated on deforested land or be genetically modified, and the use of pesticides should be limited.

An error trace. The transport of soy from Mato Grosso to Norway is contrary to all principles in the work on climate change and for environmental protection. Soy is the most important product in international monocultures – one-sided cultivation of single crops over large areas, which depletes the soil and destroys the economic foundations of small farmers. Although the "Norwegian" soybean farmers in Mato Grosso do not appear to represent the norm in international food production, the soy industry is otherwise almost in the same league as the drug and arms trade.

In addition to South America, the United States, China and India are also major producers of soy. Both soy, corn and cotton are subject to genetic engineering as well as intensive spraying. This whole industry is a continuation of the 1960s perfection of wheat production to solve the world's nutritional problem. Today, soy and corn have become two of the most important international staple foods. But the focus on monocultures and large-scale operations is a fallacy and will not solve the world's nutritional challenges in the long run. The population is being exposed to ever-stronger cocktails by environmental toxins, and the environment is being destroyed by depletion of the earth and poisonous emissions.

The soy industry appears almost in the same league as the drug and arms trade.

Paraguay, Brazil's neighboring country, in the middle of the continent and without access to the sea, illustrates this trend. The country has long been the subject of intense exploitation – ever since it was destroyed by war in the 1860s. Prior to this, the country was an example of self-preservation, social justice and economic growth – and on a collision course with the great powers England, Argentina and Brazil. After the war, Paraguay was crushed, and the country was free of foreign interests. The United States saved the country from the annexation of neighboring countries and thereby also laid the foundation for its own involvement in Paraguay, which has continued to this day.

I was recently in the country, where I met the head of BASEIS (Base Investigaciones Sociales), a social research institute for Paraguay and Latin America in general. Luis Rojas explained how the food giants operate across national borders and adapt with ever new methods to avoid control and maximize profits. Small farmers are forced to sell out of business and end up in slums in cities or as cheap labor under miserable and unworthy conditions. At the large manufacturers, they are exposed to health risks due to the intensive spraying.

In practice a colony. Paraguay has been and is an extremely deregulated society, and the least protected and open country in South America. The country is completely in the throes of the multinational companies, says Rojas. Soy is by far the most important product in the country, and the one grown in Paraguay goes to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, where it is mixed with their soy. Thus, it is part of these countries' exports to the rest of the world, such as Europe and Asia.

"The authorities in Paraguay do not care about the internal market in their own country. All policies are aimed at satisfying the large companies, which in practice are allowed to operate as they wish. It is not the case that producers in Brazil are separate from producers in Paraguay, Uruguay or Argentina. Due to the low tax here, large soybeans
magnates as much as drug barons elsewhere on the continent. These sugar-rich magnates are not ordinary farmers, but investors living in the cities, the activist says

With the disappearance of the rainforest in Paraguay, investors' eyes have now fallen on the country's savannah forest.

The ten largest companies involved in the soybean industry are foreign. Several are based in Brazil and the USA (Cargill, ADM, Bunge and Monsanto), in addition to French Dreyfuss and British Noble. Meat production, cotton and maize are also subject to intensive monoculture operations under the auspices of these companies. The meat industry is controlled from Brazil, where the large freezer and cold storage companies are located.

"The earnings of the companies operating in Paraguay are enormous, while for the state and the population in general it is very limited. The few percentages from taxes and fees go largely to government officials and politicians, who have appropriated high salaries and additional benefits. Paraguay is known as one of Latin America's most corrupt countries. It is difficult to say where the soy ends up in the end, because the companies themselves control the production chain, "says Rojas

Irrevocable deforestation. The lack of control on the part of the authorities is also reflected in the intensive deforestation that is taking place. In Paraguay, companies have their hands free, while in Brazil there is more and more control over the rainforest in the Amazon. In the fertile eastern part of Paraguay, with a humid and favorable climate for growing almost everything, deforestation is almost total. This area is separate from the Amazon and has been known for an unparalleled species diversity. The rainforest here is almost a saga: there are less than five percent left of it, in the form of statutory nature reserves. But even there, recovery is still ongoing. And with the disappearance of the rainforest, investors' eyes have now fallen on the savannah forest of El Chaco. Paraguay thus tops deforestation statistics due to (willful) lack of state control and corruption, says Rojas.

Paraguay does not have a government statistics bureau, and obtaining information is therefore very difficult. Rojas and his colleagues have thus had to use unconventional methods. He has received information about genetic modifications via sources abroad, among other places.

The impression I am left with after the meeting with Rojas is that Paraguay has the role of guinea pig for the big companies. An example of a classic third-world country where multinational companies can do as they please. It also strikes me that the activities of the large companies in Paraguay may have influenced the design of TPP and TTIP. It is a crossroads that Norway has its fingers in this game, both here and elsewhere in the world. It is crucial that we make the right choices and refrain from profiting from further destruction in these countries.

You may also like