- Global Witness report reveals how links of world's largest soy traders ADM, Cargill, and Bunge to human rights abuses and land conflict in Paraguay are tainting Europe’s meat and retail sectors
- Egregious abuses include violent forced evictions of Indigenous and Campesino communities, destruction of homes and livelihoods, poisoning by illegal fumigations, and criminalisation
- Soy linked to abuses is likely embedded in products of Europe’s largest pork producer, Danish Crown, and the UK’s largest chicken supplier, 2 Sisters
- Dozens of major supermarket and restaurant chains, from Aldi, Lidl, Kaufland, and Carrefour, to Intermarché, KFC, and Nando’s, pass human rights risk onto millions of European consumers
- New laws are needed to address systemic corporate negligence in Europe’s industrial food sector
London, 6 December 2022: Europe’s biggest meat firms and retailers are driving a wave of human rights and land rights abuses against Indigenous and local communities in Paraguay, a report reveals.
The abuses, including lethal chemical poisonings, illegal forced evictions, armed attacks, and criminalization, stem from the activities of Paraguayan farmers growing soy for ADM, Cargill, and Bunge - powerful agricultural commodity traders supplying grain for animal feed across Europe.
Europe’s animal feed sector is the largest destination market for Paraguayan soy, and the Global Witness report details how soybean meal linked to the abuses is embedded in in the pork of Europe’s biggest meat processor, Danish Crown, and the poultry of the UK’s biggest chicken firm, 2 Sisters.
Danish Crown’s pork is used in brands such as SPAM®, Tulip, Sokołów, and Reinert HerzensSACHE, sold by numerous European Union (EU) and UK supermarkets, while 2 Sisters supplies own-brand chicken products for most UK supermarkets, alongside fast-food chains McDonald’s, KFC, and Nando’s. The tainted meat is sold to tens of millions of unwitting consumers across the EU and UK daily.
Chemical poisonings, illegal forced evictions and armed attacks
Global Witness’ investigation uncovered how European retailers are likely directly linked - via Danish Crown, 2 Sisters and soy traders ADM, Cargill, and Bunge - to farmers involved in two egregious cases of illegal pesticide poisonings, one lethal, both repeatedly condemned by the United Nations (UN).
The small-scale Campesino farming community in Yeruti have suffered severe harms from illegal soy crop fumigations neighbouring their land, resulting in the death of local farmer Ruben Portillo Cáceres, the hospitalisation of a further 22 Yeruti residents, and community disintegration. A 2019 UN resolution ordered Paraguay to ‘impose criminal and administrative penalties on all the parties responsible’, including at least one firm found to be supplying soy to ADM, Cargill, and Bunge.
Another 2021 UN resolution denounced illegal soy fumigations with unregistered agrochemicals just metres from the school of the Indigenous Ava Guaraní community of Campo Agua’e, by a firm Global Witness found to have been financed by and supplying soy to ADM. Rosana Riveros, who suffered poisoning while attending the school, told Global Witness that “we got ill, we had terrible headaches, we had diarrhoea, coughs, fever.” A new soy grower now operating on the land, who Global Witness found to supply ADM, Cargill, and Bunge, has continued impacting the community with fumigations.
In October 2022, the UN Rapporteur for toxic substances and human rights reported that in both cases communities had been abandoned by the state, had not received remedy, and that pesticides were still being used to fumigate soy surrounding their land – mirroring Global Witness’ findings.
Global Witness also uncovered links between European meat supply chains and five land rights conflicts.
In one such case, hundreds of armed police forcibly evicted the Mbya Guarani Indigenous community of Hugua Po’i from their land in both 2021 and 2022, with armed civilians directed by soy growers destroying their homes, crops and temple. The second eviction occurred despite a court-issued protective measure prohibiting it. A two-month-old child died of breathing difficulties two weeks later. Global Witness found ADM sources soy from the producer claiming the land.
Other cases include violent armed attacks on the Indigenous community of Loma Piro'y, which left residents badly injured, and repeated illegal evictions of Campesino families in the Sixth Line of Yvype Colony, where landless farmer activists face jail for challenging corruption and defending their rights.
The investigation also exposes how so-called ‘soy manifestos’ – industry sustainability initiatives adopted by Danish Crown, 2 Sisters, and many of their retail customers – use leaky certification schemes that allow soy linked to abuses to continue tainting Europe’s industrial meat market.
Jago Wadley, of Global Witness said: “We believe most, if not all the corporates our investigation exposes are failing in their responsibilities under key international human rights standards.
Soy that ADM, Cargill, and Bunge source from farmers causing egregious human rights violations is being certified as sustainable. The acceptance and promotion of this nominally ‘sustainable’ soy by mega-meat processors and major retailers locks human rights risk into Europe’s food system, and constitutes systemic corporate negligence dressed up as responsibility. European legislators must ensure companies can’t rely on dodgy certifications and industry schemes to evade accountability.”
The report details how proposed European legislation to hold companies accountable for human rights harms in soy supply chains risks failing to do so, unless significantly strengthened.
A proposed EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, currently under negotiation, may not require due diligence on farmers causing abuses in Paraguay, and allows companies to rely on industry initiatives and third-party verification schemes of the type exposed in the report.
Global Witness sent its findings to all the companies concerned. Nearly all of those who responded reported they would investigate what they regarded to be violations of their policies on human rights and land rights. Only ADM denied any human rights or land right abuses had occurred. Full details of responses are contained in the report.