Greenpeace launches 'jaguars' to stop forest destruction
Buenos Aires, Argentina July 26th 2004: Greenpeace activists, dressed as jaguars on motorbikes, immobilised bulldozers to prevent them destroying precious forests in a remote region of north west Argentina today. The forests are being cut down to grow Monsanto's genetically engineered soya, used to feed cows, pigs and chicken in Europe and China. (1)
Nine Greenpeace activists, including five 'jaguars', located bulldozers in Salta, on the border of the Great Chaco and Yungas forests. They climbed onto the machines and used chains to lock them.
"We're here to stop these jaguar forests being destroyed and the land turned into a genetically engineered soya desert," said Emiliano Ezcurra, Biodiversity Campaign Coordinator, Greenpeace Argentina, speaking from the Yungas forest. "Every hour, a forest area the size of twenty football fields is cleared in Argentina. Important ecosystems are destroyed, people lose their homes and livelihoods and wildlife is endangered," he added. (2)
Together, the Yungas and Great Chaco form the second largest forests in the Americas, after the Amazon. They are rich in biodiversity and home to rare species, such as jaguars, which are on the edge of extinction in the region. (3)
Argentina is the world's third largest soya producer and it's biggest soya exporter. Increasing global demand for soya has led to an increased demand for agricultural land in Argentina, at the cost of the last third of the country's native forests. For every additional three tonnes of soya produced in Argentina, a hectare of forest is lost. Soya expansion is also leading to deforestation in Paraguay, Bolivia and southern Brazil.
In Argentina, this rapid expansion in soya production has escalated since 1996, when Monsanto introduced genetically engineered soya beans. This is leading to social as well as environmental problems. The Yungas and Great Chaco forests are home to millions of people, including indigenous communities, who depend on them for their livelihoods. Soya 'barons' are paying local police to forcibly evict people who live in these forests from their land, often at gunpoint (4).
Ramón Ferriera, who lives in the Great Chaco forest, said: "They force us to leave our land, often with guns. Then they come with these powerful machines, knock down all the trees, burn them and plant soya. We see no economic benefit from such great destruction and we lose all we have."
Ezcurra concluded: "People go hungry while their land is used to grow soya to feed cows, pigs and chicken in Europe and Asia. This environmental and social abuse is totally unacceptable. The Argentinean Government must stop the forest destruction and give people who live in the forest the legal right to their land."
Greenpeace will stay in the area for several days.
It will continue to peacefully confront forest destruction,
visit threatened communities and document the areas that are