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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Greenpeace Argentina Blocks Bulldozers

Greenpeace Argentina Blocks Bulldozers to Save Jaguars

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, August 3, 2004 (ENS) - Greenpeace activists, dressed as jaguars, are using motorbikes to track down bulldozers that are destroying forests in a remote region of Argentina. The forest is being ripped up to grow genetically engineered soya that is shipped to Europe and Asia to feed pigs, chicken and cows.

While on the prowl in Salta, on the border of the Great Chaco and Yungas forests Friday, the Greenpeace jaguars located five bulldozers on Friday that were clearcutting and burning the trees.

Five of the Greenpeace activists used their motorbikes to intercept the bulldozers and block their path to the forest. They locked the machines using chains to immobilize them and stamped "Blocked by Greenpeace" on them.

"Argentina’s rich biodiversity is being swallowed up by Monsanto’s genetically engineered soya," said Emiliano Ezcurra, biodiversity campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Argentina.
"The Argentinean government must intervene and stop these unique jaguar forests being destroyed," he said.

Jaguars still live in the Great Chaco American forest which covers a million square kilometres, across Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil. The big cats also inhabit the Yungas forest, also known as the Clouded or Mountain rainforest. Located entirely in Argentina, it covers about 70,000 square kilometres.

Greenpeace activists tracked down bulldozers all last week, and so far, eight machines remain immobilized and stamped, and the Greenpeace jaguars are on the prowl for more.

The sharp increase in soya cultivation is causing social as well as environmental problems in Argentina. Ramón Ferriera, who lives in the Great Chaco forest, said, "They force us to leave our land, often with guns. Then they come with these powerful machines, knock down all the trees, burn them and plant soya. We see no economic benefit from such great destruction and we lose all we have."

Indigenous people and campesinos have never been given title deeds to their land by the authorities, despite the fact that they have been living and working in these forests for decades.

All the land is state owned, and local authorities often sell it to private owners. Since the indigenous people have no title deeds, they have no legal way to defend their land. Many move to the cities looking for work and end up in living in poverty in the growing slums.

Argentina is one country where transgenic crops are embraced, if not universally, at least by the government. Argentina is planning to grow 14 million hectares of soya this year, and almost all of it, 98 percent, is genetically engineered.
Over 90 percent - around 20 million metric tons - of Argentine soya is exported as animal feed to Europe and Asia. Europe accounts for 35 percent of Argentina's soya exports and China for 23 percent.

Some 5,400 people around the world have telephoned their Argentinean embassies this week to demand that Argentinean President Dr. Néstor Kirchner stop the forest destruction, Greenpeace says.

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