Amazon may be levelled by the humble soya, Land cleared for planting as world demand rockets,13369,1110712,00.html

David Munk and Gareth Chetwynd in Santarém, Brazil
Saturday December 20, 2003 The Guardian

The dry, yellowing fields stretch out to the horizon, past shiny new silos, their polished tin gleaming in the noon sunshine. Beside freshly hoed fields stand new tractors and ploughs. Look past the neat farmstead and on to the plain and you could think yourself in Kansas, maybe Texas - but then there would be no accounting for the billowing smoke in the hazy distance, the fires and the rainforest that they ravage.

This is the Amazon, a vast lung producing 20% of the earth's oxygen, and home to 30% of all plant and animal species. It is so immense that it would swallow Europe in full and three more Englands besides.

The rainforest is shrinking at a rate that is staggering environmentalists. Around 25,000 sq km (10,000 sq miles) disappeared last year - an area about the size of Belgium. Brazil's environment minister has confirmed to the Guardian that this year's figures will be as bad. Others think they will be worse.

Huge swaths of the land are being transformed not only by illegal logging companies and cattle ranchers, but also by a newer invader, the soya bean. For many the extraordinary expansion of this bean - used not only for its oil and food for humans but also as feed for cattle - is the new front in the battle for the Amazon. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

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