Paving the Amazon with Soy

World Bank bows to audit of Maggi loan


| December 30, 2004


In the wake of Mad Cow disease, many consumers are clamoring for soy-fed as opposed to animal-fed cattle. Unfortunately, this apparent improvement has had a devastating effect on the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, where large swaths of grasslands and forests are being converted into soybean fields and cattle ranches. Spearheaded by Blairo Maggi, owner of agribusiness giant the Maggi Group and Mato Grosso's governor, soy production is expanding rapidly with help from the Brazilian government, private investment, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). As the number of soybean farms increase, cattle farmers are forced to create new land further into the forest, making soy the most prominent catalyst for deforestation. Maggi, whose nickname is 'The Soybean King,' has further aided this environmental decimation by establishing a transportation infrastructure that has hastened the expansion.

IFC, the World Bank's private-lending arm, has played a critical role in soy's jungle takeover. When administering two back-to-back $30 million loans to the Maggi Group, it classified the soy expansion project with a Category B environmental rating, indicating limited social and environmental impact. Brazilian NGOs protested this categorization, claiming that Maggis activities deserved a Category A rating, which indicates significant environmental impact on the Amazon's fragile ecosystem. The World Bank is now conducting an audit on the Maggi loans, promising an independent review with public results.
-- Brendan Themes

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