Following a ruling on Friday by a Brazilian judge that Cargill had failed to submit the required environmental impact assessment, police and environmental officers raided its terminal in Santarem, a deep-water port in the lower Amazon. Though the company has been ruled against before by Brazilian courts, this is the first time that it has been forced to cease operations.
Environmental group Greenpeace last year accused Cargill of using slave labour, grabbing land illegally and slash-burning forests at a rate equivalent to six football pitches every minute.
Cargill, which has a turnover of more than £36bn, argues that its continued presence in the region is an important driver of economic growth. It exports soy mainly as feed for European livestock. Since the terminal was built, land prices in the region have increased 18-fold, driving many locals to sell their land to Cargill for soy cultivation.
Chief prosecutor in the Cargill case, Felicio Pontes, said: 'Cargill believed that because they were a powerful multinational, they could disrespect both Brazilian legislation and the environment.'
This article first appeared in the Ecologist March 2007