News 394 views last update:6 Aug 2012

International soy conference lacks criticism

It was difficult to find some critical comments at the conference: Sustainable agriculture in Brazil- responsible soy for food, feed and fuel, held in Wageningen, The Netherlands on 15 October.

Blairo Maggi, governor of the state of Mato Grosso in central Brazil and also the biggest soy farmer in the world was one of the speakers at the conference. For him the message is clear: 'The world needs all the soy it can get from big farmers in Brazil.

Maggi knows what he's talking about. His farm has 140,000 hectares of soy and his business includes a processing plant that presses 400,000 tons of soy beans, harbour facilities and a transport company. Annual turnover is estimated at US$600 million. In his presentation, Maggi sketched the context of the deforestation that has occurred as a result of soy growing, and in the press conference said it was not true that large scale soy growers have pushed out the small farmers. According to Maggi, there are no conflicts between soy growers and local Indians either.

Sustainable land use
The Brazilian minister of agriculture, Reinhold Stephanes asked what gave Europeans the right to criticise Brazil. After all, the Brazilian rainforest is to a large extent still intact, while European forests have all but disappeared. A representative of Abiove, the Brazilian association of vegetable oil producers, also spoke at the conference, arguing that Brazil has stricter environmental regulations than Europe. Dr Prem Bindraban, a researcher at Plant Research International, presented an analysis of the soy sector in which he suggested that it is inevitable that the area of soy cultivation will grow. He made a plea for careful land use planning so that growth is managed sustainable.

Real criticism
The real criticism could be heard in the breaks, however, when a Greenpeace representative commented that the problem now is that the Brazilians think they've got the situation under control because they have passed laws. Some Brazilian students could also be heard muttering, surprised that Maggi said he had no problems with Indians, while there have been recent violent uprisings.


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