agribusiness sector concentrates land, water, and income. Its
production is mainly for export, creating profits for a
privileged elite at a very high socio-environmental cost. The
irrigation of monoculture consumes 70% of the country’s
water. Its machines are substituted for manual labor in the
countryside, in a country whose greatest problem is
unemployment. In the states where agribusiness has expanded,
privately-sponsored violence is growing, along with repression
through the power of the Judiciary.
and Aggression against Human Rights in the Wake of
a daily basis, the media presents agribusiness as a synonym of
progress and development. It is presented as responsible for
the constant surpluses in trade balance, as a standard bearer
of the economy. All other forms of farm work are seen as out
of date and archaic. Any objection that can be made to it is
labeled as backwardness.
in the name of “development and progress,” anything goes.
Even human rights are left behind. We can say that they are
simply and systematically “trounced”.
this paper we will try to analyze the relationship between the
agribusiness sector and respect for human rights.
call for work and dignity
frightening aggression, agribusiness touches on the right to
property and to work, which is proclaimed by the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (articles 17 and 23) and
guaranteed by the Brazilian Constitution (Art. 5 XXII and Art.
to what it preaches, agribusiness generates few jobs, besides
promoting concentration of land and expelling workers from the
of the National Pastoral Commission on Land (Comissão
Pastoral da Terra, CPT)
to P. Fearnside, professor at the National Research Institute
for the Amazon Region (INPA), the cultivation of soy creates
only one job for every 167-200 hectares due to its high degree
of mechanization. For farms to be profitable, especially those
in dense soy production, they need to be in an area of around
one thousand hectares minimum, which causes an extreme
concentration of land and profit. The introduction of soy
cultivation in the South was responsible for a considerable
decrease in family properties. Soy displaced small producers
of corn, beans, other basic foods, and coffee in the southern
region. For each worker that found employment in soybean
farming, 11 farmers were displaced. As a result, 2.5 million
people left the rural areas in Paraná in the 70’s, lowering
the number of rural properties by 109 thousand in Paraná and
by 300 thousand in Rio Grande do Sul.
the same process is taking place in the North and Northeast of
the country with the expulsion of the native populations. In
Santarem, Pará, two villages already disappeared after the
arrival of rice and soy growers. In Mato Grosso state (the
biggest soy producer), the area for cultivation increased from
56 thousand hectares in 1980 to 4.5 million hectares in
2002/3. Farms with more than 10 thousand hectares went from
643 in 1980 to 767 in 1996, increasing the cultivated area
from 17.8 million to 20.6 million hectares. During the same
period, the number of properties with fewer than 10 hectares
decreased from 23,902 to 9,801.
number of jobs in the country keeps falling, in spite of
agribusiness claims that it is responsible for a growth in the
number of jobs. An article in the daily Folha
de São Paulo (9/12/04), “Mechanization increases the
lines of the landless”, by Tiago Ornaghi shows how
modernization of the agribusiness sector is generating a wave
of unemployed that will swell the camps of the landless
throughout the country. According to Ernani Lopes Sobrinho,
manager of the Rural Agency of Goias, part of the Department
of Agriculture of the State of Goias, in this year of 2004,
3,095 families left farm jobs and went to the camps.
Consequently the number of families in encampments increased
from 6.5 thousand to 10.5 thousand in the state.
Carlos de Souza, mayor of Acreuna, a little town in Goias, is
the biggest producer of cotton in the country. In May this
year he dismissed 2 thousand workers, after having acquired 18
picking machines in a farmers’ fair in Ribeirão Preto (SP).
The workers, now camped on the edges of the highways, are left
to pick up the leftovers that the machines leave on the ground
after they go by. 
Canuto, Antônio – Agribusiness – Exclusion for
productivity – in Mutirao for a new Brazil – Topics in
Debate – 4th Social Brazilian Week (2004-2006), p. 106-108.
right to work is still attacked in a violent manner by
subjecting the worker to conditions analogous to slave labor.
Article IV of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:
“Nobody shall be kept in slavery or servitude; slavery and
the traffic of slaves shall be prohibited in all its forms.”
The agribusiness sector has managed to wed the highest
technology with the most backward labor relations.
about the practice of slave labor in sugar cane farms are
increasing in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and in the Northeast.
In Pará, manual slave labor is being used to open new areas,
many of them illegally occupied. In June 2004, the mobile
inspection group of the Ministry of Labor liberated 120
workers in four farms in Campo Novo do Parecis municipality,
MT. According to labor attorney Eder Sivers, who accompanied
the action, the members of the mobile group were surprised at
the contrast seen in the properties. “We saw high technology
used in the fields: modern pickers and tractors equipped with
GPS, many had yet to be used; but one can’t understand the
treatment dispensed to the workers. They were staying in
improvised lodgings in the woods, without the minimum
conditions of hygiene and safety and without the possibility
of transportation”. 
Mato Grosso, denunciations of slave labor continue. According
to the Campaign to Combat Slave Labor of the CPT, by early
August 2004, accusations were made about 16 cases of
properties with exploitation of slave labor, involving 582
workers. Nine of them were inspected and 253 workers were
to the end of June the Mobile Group performed very well and
the press gave good coverage to its actions. According to the
CPT of Mato Grosso, governor Blairo Maggi would have shown
Labor Minister Ricardo Berzoini that the inspection was
creating a negative image of the state and could hurt its
exports. The pressure from the governor is producing results.
The allegations no longer get the prompt attention they got
earlier. And the press hasn’t issued any news of actions
from inspections as they had been doing. The interests of
agribusiness are placed before the rights of the people in a
most blatant manner. Senator Jonas Pinheiro, also from Mato
Grosso, met with the labor minister to ask for a reevaluation
of rural properties that appear on the list of farms that have
repeated incidents of slave labor. According to the senator
“many of these properties are considered models in the state
for their infrastructure and for the way they treat their
employees; to include them in this list, which is considered
by all a list of properties that utilize slave labor, was an
exaggeration, as this label not only prevents their access to
credit, but also denigrates their image in the national and
international market, and that hurts business”. 
Berzoini accepted the proposition, in spite of having said
that the federal government is not going to tolerate crimes
Canuto, Antônio –
Ibidem, pg 109
do Estado – Cuiabá – 27 de agosto de 2004 – Jonas pede
perdão a ministro por fazendeiros escravocratas.
right to health is in danger
person has the right to a standard of living that will ensure
him/herself and his/her family health and well being... (Declaration
of Human Rights, article XXV).
right to health is another human right that the agribusiness
sector doesn’t recognize.
agribusiness sector is responsible for the use of the most
varied types of pesticides at a very high level. FAO, the UN
agency for food, rates Brazil as the third major consumer of
pesticides in the world. The application of so many poisons in
agriculture has very serious consequences in human health as
well as in the environment.
three-years study done by doctors and students in the Health
Watch Program of Populations Exposed to Pesticides, by the
University of Campinas, coordinated by Prof. Angelo Trape,
presents alarming data. The research concluded that around 1.5
million workers and farmers, exposed to prolonged contact with
pesticides, are contaminated and present renal,
dermatological, neurological, hepatic or gastrointestinal
problems. The research, done in the metropolitan area of
Campinas, proved that 7.5% of workers showed adverse effects
related to prolonged exposition to the poisons. The
coordinator says that if this is the indicator in this region
where workers have more access to information, it could be
higher in other regions of the country where information is
not as accessible.
study carried out in Pernambuco indicated hearing loss in 63%
of 98 people who had contact with pesticides. Suicides might
also be related to the use of pesticides, since they reach the
central nervous system and cause depression.
Augusto Sandri, a professor of Ethics at the College of
Agronomy of Miners, has been observing a surprising number of
premature births in that city. He suspects that the cause may
be the use of poisons in the soy plantations, which begin
immediately where the city streets end. In Mineiros, a city
the same phenomenon has been observed, with an aggravating
factor: a large number of unplanned abortions. The academic
researched the case and found in the newspaper Tribuna
da Imprensa of Rio de Janeiro (12/5/2003), material from
reporter Antonio Avellar that
mentions a study done in Ontario, Canada, that proves
that Glyphosate is causing abortions and premature births in
rural families of that region.
César Augusto – Efeitos dos Agrotóxicos na População de
Goiás – in Fórum Articulação Soja – www.cebrac.org.br