I don’t believe we have many McDonalds devotees in the audience (please correct me if I am wrong), so this news is probably not going so shatter any treehugger’s illusions! Nevertheless the article that John Vidal published in the Guardian yesterday makes for some startling reading. A recent report on the Brazilian soy bean industry, led by Greenpeace investigators, ‘follows a 7,000km chain that starts with the clearing of virgin forest by farmers and leads directly to Chicken McNuggets being sold in British and European fast food restaurants.’ There are however several steps in the food chain before they arrive at the conclusion that McDonalds is to blame for the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. First stop, after the farmers, is the ‘US agribusiness giant Cargill, which has built a port and 13 soya storage works in the Amazon region. It provides farmers with seeds and agrochemicals to grow hundreds of thousands of tonnes of beans a year.’ Next stop is ‘Sun Valley, a wholly owned Cargill subsidiary that rears chickens. The company provides McDonald's, the largest fast food company in the world, with up to 50% of all the chicken it serves in Britain and across Europe.’ And so we arrive at McDonalds through chicken soya-feed. While chicken feed might be dismissed as, well, chicken feed, it no longer seems insignificant when we learn that soya plantations were responsible for 25,000 sq kilometres of deforestation last year. While this sounds like a lot Vidal explains that ‘only 5% of the soya grown in Brazil is from the Amazon, that small quantity, says Greenpeace, threatens to destroy the forest's ecosystems.’ Futher more the environmental dangers of extensive soya farming are not just relevant to the rainforest, but also to the biodiversity and the quality of soil in traditional farming areas. TreeHugger has previously reported on this problem in relation to biofuel.
This is (clearly) not the first time that McDonalds has been accused of environmental negligence. Vidal tells us that ‘this report follows attempts by campaigners in the 90s to link McDonald's to rainforest destruction. Those accusations were refuted in Britain's longest civil trial, dubbed Mclibel, which ended in 1997.’ McDonalds, Cargill and Sun Valley have all defended their positions claiming that they take their ‘supply chain and environmental responsibilities very seriously.’ However the report clearly informs us that ‘soya is the most powerful destroyer of the Amazon,’ and Greenpeace is, as one one would expect, not placated by these responses. You can see their hostile graphic campaign above and on their protest page here. So while the multinationals are busy passing the buck, and Greenpeace is busy trashin' MacDonalds, it seems we should be getting busy too. It is time not only be aware of what we are eating and where it came from, but also of what our potential food might be eating and where that came from. Thanks to tippster Kate Phillips. Read the full article by John Vidal here ::Guardian