The soybean trade in Brazil has been heavily criticized by Greenpeace for accelerating deforestation in the Amazon. In fact, as the chains of large fast food companies that use soy products to feed their cattle and chickens expand, the chains are forced to increase the amount of livestock to produce more products. Therefore, soybean production is being expanded by carrying out deforestation activities in the Amazon to meet the emerging demand for soy.
The vessel, the 75,000 dwt bulker Cabrillo, is carrying a cargo of soybeans from Brazil's Cerrado region. This savannah ecosystem is less well-known than the Amazon rainforest, but it has been hit hard by the rapid expansion of agricultural activity into previously-undeveloped areas. Soybean farming is a primary driver of land use conversion in the Cerrado, and the region accounts for about 40 percent of Brazil's soy exports. Satellite imaging analysis performed by Chain Reaction Research suggests that the deforestation activity is driven not by marginal players, but by some of the biggest names in Brazilian agribusiness - and, further down the supply chain, by some of the biggest names in commodity trading and bulker chartering.
In protest of this activity, Greenpeace France activists blockaded a soybean storage warehouse at the port of Saint-Nazaire on May 31. On June 7, they followed up by blocking the passage of the Cabrillo. Activists in inflatable boats painted a call for action to "stop deforestation" in tall white letters on the side of the vessel's hull.
"This month of May was particularly devastating for the Cerrado and the Amazon rainforest, two ecosystems affected by a number of fires never seen since 2007. In the same month, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached a record level," said Greenpeace in a statement. "France cannot be an accomplice in such a tragedy: it must do everything to put an end to it. This can only happen by the end of imported deforestation."