The crimes of the Amazon in our PDOs.

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The dark side of Italy’s and Europe’s most renowned PDOs and PGIs-from meats to hams, dairy products and cheeses-is in the Amazon. Deforestation, intensive agriculture, land robbery and murder. In the name of saving money on feed for our farm animals, GMO soybeans. So much for the talk about traditional supply chains rooted in territories. It is time to open our eyes and demand change. #Ivotocolwallet

Deforestation, intensive agriculture and murder in the Amazon

The study ‘The Expansion of the Economic Frontier and the Diffusion of Violence in the Amazon‘ clearly identifies the distinct occurrence of murders in the Amazon in the so-called ‘deforestation arc’. (1) Land robbers drive out indigenous peoples and local communities who have lived there for generations. They illegally occupy vast areas of publicly owned rainforest while waiting to receive land titles. They cut down trees to resell the timber, set fire to shrubs and whatever else is left over. The huge expanses are then used for cattle grazing and mechanized monocultures of GMO soybeans for planetary animal husbandry.

Land robbery and deforestation are the main motives for large-scale killings in the service of the global giants of agricultural commodity production and trade. Soybeans first, to a lesser extent also corn, cotton and rice. The growing land disputes are in fact triggered by large farmers, who use private militias for ‘surveillance’ and ‘security’. That is, to prevent desperate ‘sem terra’ people from occupying patches of land and claiming possession. Thus, advancing deforestation is resulting in a marked increase in homicide and conflict, according to data collected by researchers. Precisely because through deforestation it is possible to obtain property rights to cultivable areas, permanently disenfranchising those who had previously lived there.

Indigenous peoples and local communities, the custodians of the ecosystem

The report ‘Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ec osystem Services’ -adopted by IPBES (‘the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’) on 5/31/19-highlights the role of indigenous peoples and local communities as custodians of ecosystem and biodiversity. (2) Indigenous peoples and local communities still manage about a quarter of the planet’s land surface by traditional methods. Farmers, fishermen, herders, hunters, ranchers and forest users manage significant areas under various ownership and access regimes.

‘Nature generally diminishes less rapidly in indigenous peoples’ land than in other lands, but it nevertheless diminishes, as does knowledge of how to manage it.’ (3)

However, areas managed by indigenous peoples and local communities are under increasing anthropogenic pressure from outside operators. Claims of natural resource extraction, commodity production, energy and transportation infrastructure have serious impacts on the ecosystem, livelihoods and health of local people. Deforestation, wetland loss, mining, intensive farming and ranching, and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU). The same climate change mitigation programs-one above all, the production of ‘biofuels‘-have contributed to the ongoing devastation. It also causes soil and water pollution through massive use of pesticides and other agrotoxics.

Corporation-driven neocolonialism disrupts traditional systems of resource management and with it the transmission of knowledge that is being irretrievably lost. As well as the benefits of sustainable interaction with the ecosystem. This process is favored by the paucity of governance, political and administrative, that characterizes Low-Middle Income Countries (LMICs). Thus triumphs the globalization of exploitation of nature and peoples, sometimes disguised as ‘international cooperation’ and support for local economies. In the disinterest of the citizen-voters of ‘developed’ countries, and so of their political representatives.

Amazonia, the Bolsonaro era.

The largest tropical forest on the planet is being wiped off the map. Conflicts over land ownership, predatory use of natural resources, slavery in agriculture and urban segregation have characterized violence in the Brazilian Amazon since the early 1970s, accelerating since the mid-1990s. A new exploit, however, is taking place right now under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro. Soybean thus aspires to overtake palm in the global record of land grabbing(land grabbing) and deforestation.

Deforestation almost doubled (+88%), as of June 2019, compared to the same month last year. With a loss of 920 square kilometers of forest cover, according to provisional surveys by the Brazilian Space Agency. Another 21,000 square kilometers of forests will now be ceded by the state of Pará, twice the size of France, to the big land raiders. (4) And those who try to oppose it are killed, including the leaders of civil movements such as most recently Dilma Ferreira Silva, who was slaughtered along with her husband and one of their associates on 3/22/19.

In the state of Pará, the law just adopted by Governor Helder Barbalho removes the minimum requirements needed to assert property claims. Prior to the enactment of this law, applications for public land grants were conditional on showing that applicants actually lived there. Eliminating this requirement means allowing criminal groups to violently establish themselves in the territories with the aim of selling title to large landowners.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office of Brasilia – in a note that unfortunately has no formal effect – reported that the law of Pará ‘violates constitutional principles of equality, the social function of property and respect for the environment.’ Highlighting how the local parliament proceeded with its approval without proper public debate. A group of more than 50 organizations, including Greenpeace Brazil, has in turn denounced how this law allows criminals to take over public lands with greater ease. (5)

Fire and blood in Italian and European PDOs and PGIs. Time for a change

The free trade agreement finalized on 6/28/19 between the European Union and Mercosur will result in the tax-free import of huge quantities of meat (259 thousand tons/year) from animals grazed at the expense of the Brazilian rainforest. This alone should lead us to incisively demand the introduction of special obligations in Europe, aimed at ensuring transparent information for the consumer:

– on the label, on the origin and source of meat used as ingredients in other foods (e.g., meat preparations and products, processed meats, ready meals, sauces),

– On the menus of restaurants, canteens, caterers, mandatory origin of meat.

The most serious problem , however, is the GMO soybeans and corn used in the Old Continent to feed the animals from which even the most celebrated products of European tradition are derived. In fact, even the seals of our PDOs and PGIs hide both the origin and provenance and the genetically modified nature of the feed used. Between old and new GMOs, often not even identified or tracked as such, the lives of populations and the ecosystem are being consumed. In violation of every international agreement on basic human rights and the environment. To make goods then falsely presented as ‘typical’ of territories and traditions.

So the question is not ‘feeding the planet’ but how we want to do it. ConsumAtors are effectively deprived of the right to know theactual sustainability of the supplies from which the food offered to them on the shelf and served in the restaurant is derived. Which often, as it turns out, result from deforestation and murder. The exceptions can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The first is organic products, where no GMO feed is allowed (6). The second consists of animal products derived from supply chains that do not use GMO feed, as is the case, for example, on Coop Italia brand products. (7) The third involves supply chains whose feed and their raw materials are tracked, perhaps even using innovative and transparent technologies such as public blockchain. The fourth, still residual unfortunately, is the definition of appropriate requirements in the production specifications. (8)

Meat and hams, milk and cheese from animals fed overseas GMO soybeans? No guarantees? No thanks, #iovotocolportfolio.

#Égalité!

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Patrícia Feitosa Souza, Diego Ricardo Xavier, Christovam Barcellos et al. (2015). The Expansion of the Economic Frontier and the Diffusion of Violence in the Amazon. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Jun; 12(6): 5862-5885. doi: 10.3390/ijerph120605862

(2) IPBES, The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.(2019). Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 5/31/19, at https://www.ipbes.net/global-assessment-report-biodiversity-ecosystem-services.

(3) IPBES, report referred to in footnote 2. ‘Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services’, item B.6.

(4) Following the passage of a ‘forest privatization’ law, published in the Official Gazette on 9.7.19.

(5) Similar comment was made by Jeremy Campbell, author of the book ‘Conjuring Property: Speculation and Environmental Futures’. ‘These seemingly populist measures benefit local elites and capital.’

(6) In fact, Europe is the leading producer of non-GMO soybeans. Which, inevitably, does not entail the risk of new deforestation since these have already been taken care of over the past centuries.

(7) c.s.

(8) The only good example known in Italy regarding the origin requirements for feed materials is the specification for Fontina della Val d’Aosta PDO.