The system of mass production works so well in utterly transforming raw materials from what they were into what we choose and use that we don’t see the pesticides in the cotton clothes we wear, the coltan in the cell phone we use, or the soy in the meat we may eat. Also lost in the production translation are the forests or grasslands, waterways, wild animals, human communities or, even less tangibly, the Earth’s climate that may be trammelled, or trampled, in the process. Yes, this is that kind of blog. And yes, there’s another seemingly inconceivable example of the juggernaut at work. In Paraguay, forests are falling, water is being polluted by pesticides and other chemicals, poor farming communities are being pushed from their lands, their members detained and even killed all to make way for soy. Yes, that soy. And yes, for the purpose a majority of the world’s soy is produced: to provide feed for farmed animals. In this case, an investigation in Paraguay by the UK-based Eco-Storm, working with the Ecologist magazine’s television unit, found that most of the soy produced in vast plantations here is exported to the European Union and China where it makes possible the fact, and the fiction, of cheap meat.
Tiny Paraguay is the world’s sixth largest soy producer and fourth largest soy exporter. “Soyanization” has engulfed much of Latin America in recent decades, including Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. In Brazil’s biodiversity-rich savannah, the Cerrado, one can drive for hours north on the main highway that traverses the region and see almost nothing but rows and rows of soybeans. In Argentina, complaints from farmers about the dominance of industrial-scale soy in the country’s agriculture brought the government to a virtual standstill last year. In the Eco-Storm/Ecologist video you’ll see the cleared forests, fouled water, and the well-stocked meat aisles European consumers encounter whenever they enter a supermarket. You’ll also hear from individuals who’ve been “affected by soy” (a modern syndrome that’s increasing). “We indigenous people used to live from the forests, [from] animals, fruits…now we cannot do that any more more because ware are surrounded by [soy] ranches, Jose Dolores Berraro says. “It’s an invasion….” Now it’s been documented. But many remain hidden in plain sight. The exigencies of production and consumption require nothing less — only more.