Saving the Amazon? Land Grabs and “sustainable soy” as the New Logic of Conservation

By Brenda Baletti

Introduction: On July 14th 2010, 1000 people gathered in Santarém’s Yacht Club for a “public audience” regarding the one million ton capacity soy port that multi-national agricultural corporation Cargill built on the Amazon River there in 2000. The meeting, a mandatory part of the federal environmental compliance process, was held in order to solicit public feedback on the Environmental Impact Assessment that Cargill had just completed for the port. Protocol dictates that such assessments be completed prior to licensing major construction, although in the case of Cargill’s port, the assessment was being considered, in its second iteration, nine years after ground was broken for port construction and six years into the its operation. In 2000, the federal court in Santarém mandated that Cargill act in accordance with Brazilian federal law and complete the environmental compliance process, which it had not implemented prior to construction and by 2006 still had not begun. In 2006, on appeal, the Superior Tribunal de Justiça—Brazil’s second highest court—upheld this decision. Despite the federal mandate, Cargill continually avoided completing the assessment through a series of provisional agreements with the notoriously corrupt and industry friendly State Environmental Secretary, who, regardless of sentiment expressed at the public audience, remains the regulatory agency responsible for final approval of Cargill’s license.

File: Brenda Baletti.pdf