Pablo clicked up a map of Paraguay and its forest cover circa 1980, and next the present cover. A collective gasp, followed by stunned looks of disbelief and mutual recognition of the incomprehensible change in the land.

Watching a country’s forest almost completely disappear over 25 years is an astonishing disgrace. Astonishing inefficiency – converting the land to mostly international exports (soy and other non-staple crops); and disgraceful – the immoral behaviour at every level by those who have created, sold, planted the crops and poisoned the land.

Pablo Valenzuala is Director of Communications for Friends of the Earth Paraguay (Sobrevivencia).  He showed very effectively (even through a translator) the plight of the Atlantic Forest and others, and of the indigenous people who relied on the land for their livelihood and basic survival.   

Survival is the literal translation of Sobrevivencia and, after hearing the talk, you could see the reason for the group’s name. They are fighting: for the survival of indigenous people and communities; for what is left of the forest; against the threat of poisoning from herbicides and pesticides imported into the country by the likes of Cargill and Monsanto; and for the wider rights of us all to own our (non-GM) seed.

“Our seed” may sound as unusual to you as to me but it is central to our existence. We are both most probably sat within five miles of a Tesco, where variety of produce sold is already being prescribed.  The corporations operating in Paraguay are intent on total market domination of what is grown, and there is more profit in soy exports than a diverse eco-system supporting the climate and crops of those few million Paraguayans. What’s there not to love about it?!

Sadly, we unwittingly demand this each time we opt for cheap meat – largely produced using soy feed, which largely comes from South America. You can change this by adapting your eating habits, but also by lobbying your MP to support the Sustainable Livestock Bill at its second reading in the House of Commons on 12th November 2010.  With good support it will change the way we rear and feed our livestock, and reduce demand for cheap soy and the destruction of further forest. Get your MP MOOVING on it!