Argentina, historically an agricultural powerhouse, has become a major producer of biofuels in recent years. However, this South American country is now moving backwards in the use of this oil substitute in transportation, a decision in which economics weighed heavily and environmental concerns have been ignored.
The sea of soybeans that sprouts every November will spread even further in the state of Mato Grosso if three new railway lines that would boost soy production in central-western Brazil and growing parts of the Amazon rainforest are built.
Health, fiscal, environmental and political crises have not prevented Brazil from attracting private capital to expand infrastructure, according to the sector's minister, Tarcísio de Freitas.
The Argentine biodiesel industry, which in the last 10 years has become one of the most powerful in the world, has an uncertain future, faced with protectionist measures in the United States and Europe and doubts in the international scenario about the environmental impact of these fuels based on agricultural products.
“After being displaced for the third time,” Daniel Schlindewein became an activist struggling for the rights of people affected by dams in Brazil, and is so combative that the legal authorities banned him from going near the installations of the Sinop hydroelectric dam, which is in the final stages of construction.
“I worked in many companies, in construction, fertilisers, chemicals, but none of them were as good as this one,” said Dario Cardozo, who works in the Angostura Agroindustrial Complex (CAIASA) grain reception facility.
A soybean processing plant, Angostura Agroindustrial Complex SA (CAIASA), that does not use fossil fuels and generates practically no waste products from soy reflects Paraguay’s growing industrialization.
The BR-163 highway, an old dream of the Brazilian military to colonise the Amazon jungle, was revived by agroexporters as part of a plan aimed at cutting costs by shipping soy out of river ports. But the improvement of the road has accentuated problems such as deforestation and land tenure, and is fuelling new social conflicts.
River port terminals in the northern Brazilian city of Santarém are considered strategic by the government. But what some see as an opportunity for development is for others an irreversible change in what was previously a well-preserved part of the Amazon rainforest.
In the northern Brazilian state of Pará, the construction of a port terminal for shipping soy out of the Amazon region has displaced thousands of small farmers from their land, which is now dedicated to monoculture.
Industrial soy production continues to expand in Argentina, pushing small farmers out of the countryside and replacing other crops and cattle. It presents a challenge in a country where 70 percent of the food consumed comes from family farms, but which also needs the foreign exchange brought in by what has been dubbed “green gold”.
In the 2011 action-thriller "Unknown", scientists are persecuted by the biotech industry because they plan the open release of a drought- and pest-resistant strain of maize that could help eradicate world hunger.