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23 Nov 2021

Global Witness

Brazil: Global Witness investigation reveals alleged connection between global commodities trading companies and soybean supplied by producers linked to land conflicts and rights violations

"Global commodity traders are fuelling land conflicts in Brazil’s Cerrado", 23 November 2021

...Our investigation reveals that global commodity traders ADM, Bunge and Cargill are dealing in conflict-tainted soy sourced from these producers, and in doing so are contributing to this land conflict and alleged human rights abuses, in violation of their responsibilities under UN and OECD human rights standards...

Key findings

  • Testimonies, legal and police records obtained by Global Witness demonstrate a campaign of intimidation against the traditional Capão de Modesto community and neighbouring fecho de pasto communities.
  • Community members have faced death threats, arbitrary detention and destruction of community property that they allege were committed by employees of security agencies and other individuals hired by soy producers.
  • Since 2017, these producers have sought to permanently evict the Capão do Modesto community. In a lawsuit, they characterise the community as ‘invaders’ and destroyers of the environment. To the community, eviction means the destruction of their ancestral way of life and certain destitution.
  • Three of the ‘big four’ global grain-trading giants – ADM, Bunge and Cargill – have been trading with businesses that some of these producers own, Global Witness reveals in this investigation. These commercial relationships have persisted while the community was being harassed and threatened. Some of the soy from the farms concerned is shipped to Europe, including under a ‘sustainable’ carbon certification scheme recognised under EU biofuels rules...

Conflicts have proliferated with the frenzied grab for productive land in the booming agricultural belt, and traditional and indigenous communities are facing increased pressure, including from offsets. In this case, the farmers claim the contested area as ‘legal reserve’, forest areas that Brazilian law requires be preserved to offset deforestation for soy. Defenders like those in Capão de Modesto also face a growing range of threats to their ancestral lands and livelihoods, including  violence and lawsuits.

Under justified and sustained international pressure to exclude deforestation from their supply chains, the traders are prioritizing purchases from established farms, but doing so with little regard for land rights conflict and human rights abuses.  

...[C]ommodity traders still operate in the area potentially still profiting from trading soy produced on farms that are forcing traditional communities into hardship.

While claiming almost universal traceability for Brazilian soy, none of the traders disclose any of their suppliers and the business remains fundamentally opaque and unaccountable. Despite policies supposedly committing the traders to uphold human and land rights in their supply chains, our investigation reveals longstanding structural deficiencies and negligence in policy implementation...