8. A Tango with Monsanto
Once a year the 1001 Club invites its members to the exclusive Panda Ball. One dines and discusses the future of the world in select company. Is the Club just a sentimental relict of the founding era with no significance for current WWF policy, as Rob Soutter tried to convince me in our meeting at WWF headquarters in Gland, Switzerland? If it really is just a harmless group of aging nature-loving aristocrats, why are their gatherings as secretive as the Cosa Nostra? Why do members pay a 25,000-dollar initiation fee? What unseen bonds exist amongst the elite 1001?
I knew that if I could get a look at the secret membership list it would help shed light on these matters. It wasn't easy, but after several months of patient research I finally held two editions of the mystery list in my hand -- one from 1978, the other from 1987. Both of them came from the estate of British journalist Kevin Dowling, whose early film about the African misadventures of the WWF was never aired. The two lists can now be found on the Internet.
Title page of the membership list of the club, "The 1001"
Extract of the membership list of the club "The 1001"
The cover page of the membership list reads simply: The 1001 Members. Some of the names I was seeing for the first time, but most of them sounded familiar, because they were prominent amongst the world's political and financial elite. They included: billionaire Muslim spiritual leader Karim Aga Khan IV; Fiat boss Giovanni Agnelli; Lord Astor of Hever (president of The Times of London); Henry Ford II; Stephen Bechtel (Bechtel Group, USA); Berthold Beitz (Krupp); Martine Cartier-Bresson; Joseph Cullman III (CEO Philip Morris); Charles de Chambrun; H.R.H. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh; Sir Eric Drake (General Director of British Petroleum); Friedrich Karl Flick (Germany); Manuel Fraga-Iribarne (Franco's Minister of Information); C. Gerald Goldsmith; Ferdinand H.M. Grapperhaus (Dutch Undersecretary); Max Grundig (Germany); beer baron Alfred Heineken; Lukas Hoffmann (Hoffmann-La Roche); Lord John King (British Airways); Daniel K. Ludwig (USA); Sheikh Salim Bin Laden (elder brother of Osama Bin Laden); John H. Loudon (CEO Shell); Daniel K. Ludwig; Robert McNamara (Vietnam-era US Secretary of Defense); Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller (shipping magnate); Queen Juliana of the Netherlands; Keshub Mahindra (India); Harry Oppenheimer (Anglo American Corporation); David Rockefeller (Chase Manhattan Bank); Agha Hasan Abedi (President of BCCI Bank); Tibor Rosenbaum (Banque de Credit International, Geneva); Baron Edmond Adolphe de Rothschild (France); Juan Antonio Samaranch (Spain); Peter von Siemens (Germany); Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (Switzerland); Dr. Joachim Zahn (Daimler Benz).
The 1001 Club membership lists available included a remarkably large share of South Africans. In addition to Anton Rupert, owner of Rothmans International and Cartier, a few dozen other leading lights of the apartheid regime -- almost all of them were former or present members of the white-supremacist group Broederbund. The only black African to have found his way into the elite white brotherhood was the Dictator of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko.
Most club members were previous or present top dogs in the oil or mining industries, banking or shipping. Conversation at the Panda Ball presumably does not revolve solely around endangered tigers, elephants and songbirds; talk also surely turns to topics such as business prospects in the energy and food sectors. Most club members have directly influenced the political and economic history of their home countries -- leaving a large ecological footprint behind in their wake.
Membership Number 572
The name behind the 1001 Club membership number 572, Jose Martinez de Hoz, is probably unknown to most. Based in Buenos Aires, Martinez de Hoz is an Argentine oligarch with blood on his hands. He owns over a million hectares of land, is a wild game hunter and founding member of the Argentine WWF, which is called Fundacion Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA).  But most Argentines don't think of Martinez de Hoz as an animal lover: his biggest claim to fame is serving as Minister of the Economy during the military dictatorship of Videla.
Unfortunately I was not able to meet Jose Martinez de Hoz in person, because in the summer of 2010 he had been arrested for crimes against humanity -- after twenty years of living unchallenged, escaping justice. At this writing he was under house arrest. His attorney conveyed the message that his client did not wish to accept visitors. There is a photograph of Martinez de Hoz shortly before his arrest: a gaunt old man on his way home with a baker's bag in his hand. Hard to believe that the sensitive-looking geriatric with the friendly smile had been the number two man in a brutal and bloody military dictatorship that had ordered the killing of around 30,000 of its own citizens, most of them men and women in the bloom of youth.
As Minister of the Economy, Martinez de Hoz had concerned himself with the "modernization" of the Argentine economy, opening the country to the global market and for foreign investors. He was a man with outstanding international contacts, which his membership in the exclusive WWF club no doubt helped him to cultivate. Even after being confined under house arrest to his luxury residence in the Kavanagh high-rise apartment house Martinez de Hoz was still allowed to pursue his business activities undisturbed. Like all wealthy Argentines, he too had invested a lot of money in soy, the foremost plant-based energy crop in the age of the "green economy". And Jose Martinez de Hoz is not alone: other top functionaries of the Argentine WWF have also harvested the dubious fruits of Argentina's transformation into a soy republic.
On the flight from Washington D.C. to Buenos Aires we flew over northern Argentina at dawn. From above, the green landscape looked like the region's famous Pampa. In fact, the vast deforested expanses beneath us were industrial soy fields. The 1,500-kilometer flight from Salta in the north to Buenos Aires meant 1,500 kilometers of soy monoculture. A full one half of Argentina's arable land is now covered with the "green gold" -- genetically modified soy from GMO giant Monsanto. The soy monoculture has spread to neighboring countries Brazil and Paraguay like a galloping cancerous growth.
Biofuel from soy for Europe and the USA is eating away the farmland of the people in the Southern Hemisphere -- with the ruthless if indirect support of the WWF. Below us small crop duster planes flew across the seemingly endless fields: they were spraying the Monsanto herbicide Roundup, a substance Monsanto chemists had developed from Agent Orange, the notorious, highly toxic defoliant used by the USA in Vietnam to strip the Viet Cong of their lush forest cover.
The Soy Dictatorship
The huge jacaranda trees on the Plaza San Martin had dropped millions of blossoms. Over the purple petal carpet walked the man we had come to meet: Jorge Rulli, known in Argentina for his relentless opposition to the country's soy policies. He looked up squinting, his hand protecting his eyes from the blazing sun. Rulli scanned the high-rise that housed his former archenemy Jose Martinez de Hoz.
The battles Jorge Rulli has fought in his life had left their mark: a thick bull's neck, a short crop of unruly snow-white hair covering a massive skull and continuing on uninterrupted to form a bristly beard. His weathered features had dug their way deep into his face; torture had left him blind in one eye. In 1967, while Che Guevara was forming his guerrilla unit in the Bolivian jungle, Jorge Rulli had been arrested in Argentina for the first time and ferociously mistreated in custody. His interrogators wanted to know what his mentor Che Guevara was planning for Argentina. The charismatic revolutionary leader had, in fact, considered returning to Argentina after Bolivia to ignite the fire of social revolution in his homeland. But events took a different turn than planned, with a brutal response from the old oligarchy: in the 1970s military dictators seized power throughout South America. It was the beginning of a dark era.
Jorge Rulli was arrested for a second time and brought to a secret prison where he was held and tortured for a year, during which time his wife and children didn't know whether he was dead or alive. Later he had been sentenced to five years in prison. Yet Jorge Rulli told us he did not wish to exact vengeance on Martinez de Hoz: "He is one of the key figures responsible for the dictatorship, but it's too late to make him pay for his crimes. Now he's sitting up there, a lonely old man locked up with his wife -- that's punishment enough."
Jorge laughed at his own grim joke and pointed at the glass facade on the opposite side of the square, home to the Argentine branch of Monsanto. According to Jorge Rulli the US-based multinational was now the "secret government of Argentina". He compared it in complete earnest to the military dictatorship: "The monoculture enforced by Monsanto is just as terrible as the military dictatorship. It is destroying my country down to the very roots. Argentina is now the world's biggest open-air laboratory for genetic engineering."
In 1996 the Argentine government became the first in South America to revoke the prohibition against genetically modified (GM) crops, and proceeded to permit more than half of the country's farmlands to be transformed into a soy wasteland. Argentina is now the world's largest supplier of soybean oil. The majority of it goes to the refineries that make biodiesel for the European market; the rest goes into feed concentrate for intensive livestock farming in the USA, China and Europe. Argentina's political class wants to use soy to help rapidly industrialize the country and thus payoff national debt. A 35 percent share of the profits from soybean biodiesel flows into government coffers in the form of export duty.
Despite impressive growth figures Rulli did not see the soy model as a success. "The chemicals are destroying the arable soil, the smallholders are being driven out, food supplies have become scarce and expensive. Argentina can no longer even produce enough meat for its own population. But that doesn't bother the government, because the income from the soy export duty is so high that they can use it to support the subsistence of the hundreds of thousands of Argentines who have fled the countryside for the slums of the cities."
I wanted to know what position the WWF took on Argentina's genetic agricultural revolution. After all, the massive expansion of soy production had exacted a sacrifice not only of farmland for food crops but vast forest areas as well. According to data from the forestry authorities, since 1914 close to half of Argentina's Chaco Province forest had been chopped down.  From 2003 on, the tempo of the destruction had accelerated as the soy industry initiated its great leap forward. Continuous satellite surveillance conducted by the conservationist organization Guyra has shown: in May 2012 the deforestation rate was 710 hectares a day. The Argentine WWF has raised resistance, using a study to make its case for classifying 49 percent of the remaining Chaco as "especially valuable" habitat subject to strict protection measures. But that was not enough to reconcile WWF critic Jorge Rulli with the organization: by defining 49 percent of the forest as "especially worthy of protection" the WWF was accepting in principle that the rest would be overrun by agribusiness: "In Argentina the FVSA (Fundacion Vida Silvestre Argentina) is not a nature conservancy organization in a literal sense. It and Monsanto are two arms of the same body. Monsanto created the agricultural model that is now predominant in our country -- and the FVSA/ WWF Argentina is making every effort to make it socially acceptable. It says: GM soy isn't so bad; it can even be produced 'sustainably.'"
Sizing me up, Jorge Rulli sensed that I still had my doubts. He suggested I get in touch with the father of the Argentine "soy miracle". "He doesn't actually give interviews, but as a German your chances with him are pretty good."
A Patriarch's Dialogue
Dr. Hector Laurence
Dr. Hector Laurence did, in fact, agree without hesitation to a meeting. Laurence is the godfather of the Argentine model: a long-time player in the soy business, in 2005 he also became president of the IFAMA (International Food and Agribusiness Association). For many years he had also been the South America representative for two foreign GMO firms: Morgan Seeds and Pioneer, a subsidiary of the chemicals giant DuPont. During the same period, from 1998 to 2008, he was president of the Fundacion Vida Silvestre Argentina. In 1988 the FVSA had become an associate member of the WWF.
I met with Dr. Laurence in his office, which was discreetly decorated in subdued shades of colonial blue. The building was on the upscale Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the best addresses in Buenos Aires. The scion of an English immigrant family, Dr. Laurence was a gentleman from top to toe. Although he and his nemesis Jorge Rulli were almost the same age, Hector Laurence appeared younger. That might have been due to his carefully parted gray-free hair, or to his country club outfit: blue blazer, gray flannel trousers, the pungent smell of a musky deodorant. The steely gaze of his blue eyes and each of his vigorous-yet-controlled gestures clearly communicated that he belonged to the Argentine elite. "Diplomatic waffle" was not his thing, said Dr. Laurence. "You Europeans must be told straight out that you are quite backward in some areas, especially when it comes to modern technologies. You have become the victims of leftwing hysterics who denounce genetic engineering as the work of the devil -- instead of listening to science."
I tried to maintain a neutral expression as I posed the key question of my visit: what did the WWF think about the fact that the soil of Argentina was now drenched with Monsanto's herbicide? Hadn't recent laboratory testing by Argentine pharmacologist Prof. Carrasco determined that Roundup damaged human genetic material? Dr. Laurence furrowed his statesmanlike brow and pondered for a moment before answering in English: "Those experiments are pseudo-scientific propaganda. If you invite me to drink a glass of Roundup or to smell it for a couple of hours directly -- no, I would say, this can hurt me, of course. But on the other hand, like anything if you use a new product -- and I don't have any relationship with Monsanto, I want to be very clear on that -- if you talk about the risks of technology, in terms of accidents or illnesses, we should then eliminate planes and eliminate cars."
He looked at me for a few seconds in amusement, waiting to see how I would react to his clever comparison. I held my tongue, so he continued, switching back to Spanish: "The romantics pine for the old Pampa. That's ridiculous. We soy entrepreneurs are farmers too, when it comes down to it; the land is our most important capital. We care for it and safeguard it. Anyone can invest in soy. We no longer need farmers to have agriculture. That has boosted Argentina's efficiency enormously. the Pampa is experiencing a veritable agricultural revolution."
Dr. Laurence related with pride how he had founded the National Genetic Technology Commission to familiarize the population with the blessings of this technology. In backward Argentina you had to promote progress a bit, because Monsanto had done "bad PR work, so that many people thought that genetic engineering would lead to babies being born with fish heads and similar nonsense. We have to help Monsanto to market its products more credibly."
He had felt personally called upon to "reconcile" industry with nature. To this end, in 2003 Dr. Laurence had extended invitations to the Forum of the 100 Million, a round table dedicated to the development of the soy industry. He personally had headed both the delegation of the conservationists and that of the business interests -- a dialogue with himself? Dr. Laurence responded to my ironic remark with good humor: "There were a few other people there as well, including the best scientists in our country. I knew both sides of the coin, so I was the right man to reach a compromise." The forum agreed to approve the planting in Argentina of 100 million tons of soy and maize crops for energy generation.
I reminded the master of dialogue that the industrial cultivation of genetically engineered crops was eliminating vast areas of forest and conventional farmland. At this, deep worry lines creased Dr. Laurence's forehead -- it seemed a struggle was raging between the naturalist and the entrepreneur within him: "Cut-throat competition is unavoidable in a free-market economy. That's why a few secondary forests had to be sacrificed to achieve our ambitious target of 100 million. But arable land is affected more than forests. Some products have experienced losses: sorghum, livestock farming, sunflowers and wheat."
For Monsanto the endorsement of the "new green revolution" by Fundacion Vida Silvestre was heaven sent -- after years of fighting for moral support for its genetic interventions into nature. With the backing of an Argentinian bishop, Monsanto had attempted to prompt the Pope to put in a good word for genetic engineering. Nothing doing: the Church remained firm. The WWF was the port of last resort. After all, it too had moral authority in society-at-large -- when the WWF talked, people listened. Dr. Laurence summed up with pride: "With the help of the WWF" Argentina was now "a green world power." The 100 million ton goal was achieved in 2010. But that, said Laurence, was just the beginning: "We're going to double the target to 200 million." WWF International, too, he added, had now come out in support of genetic engineering "thanks to our pioneering work in Argentina".
At the end of this highly instructive conversation I asked Dr. Laurence what he thought of WWF Argentina founder Dr. Martinez de Hoz: "I know and value him; a great man who served his nation. He is wrongly under house arrest. Like so many defendants from the era of the military government, he has done nothing wrong, I swear to that."
Still reeling from the revisionist history lesson, I fired a final shot: would Dr. Laurence succeed Martinez de Hoz as a member of the WWF 1001 Club? I believe I caught a sheepish grin flitting across the tanned face before me: "I still haven't been asked, but it may happen yet." With such extensive service to his country it would, of course, be a rude injustice to deny him the ascent to the ranks of WWF nobility.
On the Soy Highway
The next morning I drove to the village of Marcos Paz, west of Buenos Aires. The invincible rebel-with-a-cause Jorge Rulli had created an island of peace and tranquility there. He and his family live in an old farmhouse and have transformed the rest of the land into a Garden of Eden of lush, rambling vegetable patches and flower beds. He used seeds gathered on his travels. In the modern supermarkets, said Jorge Rulli, you could only buy big brand name, imported "standardized food". The old traditional village markets used to have a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables: "It's all over with the variety. The globalization of the food industry has led to a dramatic impoverishment of the human diet."
We had a long, uncomfortable drive ahead of us, going north on the "soy highway". The temperature rose by the hour as we approached the equator. To the left and right the soy fields stretched across vast desolate areas like huge brown cloths. We made a stop at a village called Tuyuti, where we met the last remaining farmer still at work: breeding polo ponies for export to the rich Gulf States. The other farms lay in ruins.
At last count there were 1,000 "abandoned" villages in Argentina. When the majority of farmers sell up for good money to the soy companies, the villagers all end up leaving. 61 percent of the area now covered by soy fields in Argentina used to be pastures where cattle grazed, or farmland with crops of wheat, sorghum, potatoes, maize, sunflowers, rice, barley, beans and cotton. Over 400,000 farmers have already given up on agriculture and migrated to the cities. In Tuyuti the only teacher in the village school had only a dozen children left in her class; it used to be four times that.
At the sight of the dilapidated schoolhouse, rage welled up in Jorge's heart: "With the decline of the villages the culture of the Pampa has disappeared. People are abandoning the countryside because they have no work here anymore. Those who remain risk being poisoned to death. Roundup is the drug of the Argentine economy."
Roundup: brand advertising
We spotted the first crop-duster in the distance. Called a Mosquito, it left a huge toxic cloud trailing behind: Roundup from Monsanto. The poisonous substance drizzled down onto the fields where the still small soy plants fought grasses, herbs and weeds for space. The next day, all the plants were brown and dead, except for the soy. It had survived thanks to a special gene built in to resist the toxic herbicide.
"The Root of All Microcephaly Begins With a Seed From Monsanto"
NOT MONSANTO -- MOSQUITO!
by Tara Carreon, working from background ("label gmo") by email@example.com
-- Alarm Spreads in Brazil Over a Virus and a Surge in Malformed Infants, by Simon Romero
Buyers of Monsanto seed are obliged to purchase the companion herbicide Roundup to go with it. "This 'package deal'," says Jorge Rulli, "makes the farmers dependent on Monsanto. At the end of the day, the Roundup Ready model means total corporate control of agricultural production. Apart from that, Roundup contaminates the ground water and the rivers. Amphibians have died off in our rivers. When they start using that poison even the rats and snakes flee to the cities. We are on the precipice of an ecological collapse, but the WWF tells us, in effect: everything's fine; soy is good; you can plant soy sustainably."
We continued on our road trip across the green-brown monotony of the soy landscape until we reached the port city of Rosario on the shores of the broad, brown Parana River. Every day hundreds of transport trucks full of soy arrive from all corners of the country at the harbor. From there the freight is shipped off to Europe -- or it lands in one of the new refineries that line the riverbanks. They hungrily swallow up the soybeans and discharge them again in the form of biodiesel. Rosario is the heart that pumps the green oil into the bloodstream of the global economy.
Aided by billions in subventions, the European feed-in obligation for biofuels has created an artificial global biofuel market; by the year 2020, according to the EU directive, 10 percent of the fuel in Europe's vehicles must be plant-based. The USA has a similar provision. Arable land is in short supply in Europe, and thus very costly, so biofuel production has been farmed out to the Southern Hemisphere.
The booming biofuel industry has invested billions and given rise to brand new business alliances: automakers such as VW and Toyota are to be found in new consortiums with energy companies BP and Shell, as well as agribusinesses such as Monsanto, Cargill, ADM and Dreyfus. In the age of the "green economy" energy and agribusinesses are fusing. 95 percent of the diesel oil produced in Argentina goes to Europe. The ugly word "bioimperialism" is making the rounds in Latin America, Asia and Africa -- wherever vast areas have been devoted to fuel crops. The global north is solving its energy problems at the expense of the global south.
In earlier, simpler days Jorge Rulli could blame all the evils of the world on the rightwing oligarchs. Nowadays things are a bit more complicated. After all, the presidents and politicians who have pushed the soy model through in South America have mainly been leftwing: "Even Lula in Brazil joined in, although genetic engineering was prohibited in his country. Monsanto smuggled the genetically modified seed out of Argentina over the borders to Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil and gave it away to the farmers in these neighboring countries."
This was to be expected of Monsanto, said Rulli, but the leftwing governments could have said no. Instead they had played the doorman, ushering Monsanto in: "After they were defeated, the left could have rebounded by becoming an ecological left; instead, they humbly conformed. The chief ideologists of the soy model weren't reactionaries, they were leftists. 40 years ago they were making homemade bombs, which provided a pretense for the putsch, and now they're the loyal servants of Monsanto. History certainly turns some strange somersaults."
Gustavo Grobocopatel, for example, is now one of Argentina's biggest soy barons. He used to be a card-carrying Communist and a welcome guest in the Soviet Union. Hector Huergo was once the chief ideologist of the Trotskyite Party. Nowadays he's editor-in-chief of the agricultural supplement to Argentina's biggest newspaper Clarin and has transformed himself into the ideological mastermind of the soy revolution: "He used to demand agricultural reform and the expropriation of large estate holders; now he's leading the corporate counterrevolution in the countryside."
"Despite the fact that Stalin deliberately helped bring Hitler and the Nazis to power, despite the Nazi-Communist alliance of 1939-41 under the Hitler-Stalin Pact, despite Mussolini's close ties to Moscow, despite the deep affinity between Nazi-fascists and communists demonstrated repeatedly in many countries by mass exchanges of membership between political organizations of the two persuasions, the average American still sees communism and Nazism-fascism as polar opposites.
-- Project Democracy's Program -- The Fascist Corporate State, by Webster Griffin Tarpley[/quote]
Jorge Rulli still keeps in touch with his old comrade: "I ran into Hector at a discussion meeting and asked him if he wasn't ashamed to be transforming Argentina into a new colony whose only role is to supply the powerful countries in the north with biofuel. He laughed at me and said: 'My dear Jorge, you're stuck in a 70s mentality.' I stayed nice and friendly and said: 'Okay, our opinions on the economic model differ, but at least admit that we're losing all our biodiversity.' He grinned at me: 'Biodiversity? That can be recreated in the laboratory.' He's become a cynical champagne socialist who's embedded himself in government and is living there like bee in clover. Sometimes I even wish we had the military dictatorship back -- at least you knew who were the good guys and who were the bad."
In Monsanto's Close Embrace
400 kilometers farther to the west we stopped our rattling Peugeot just outside the small town of Laboulaye, because in the otherwise uninhabited landscape we had come across a human being: Fabricio Castillos. The soy farmer was busy repairing his broken-down crop-spraying vehicle. As it turned out, he was an independent small business owner with 130 hectares of land -- and a contract to supply one of the biggest soy companies in Argentina, Gustavo Grobocopatel, which pays the current global market price for the soybeans. The farmer alone carries the production risks: "When I first started it all worked great. For the first few years Monsanto gave us the seeds for virtually nothing. In the meantime the prices have risen drastically. The herbicide Roundup is really expensive. We have to keep spraying more and more because the weeds have become resistant. This year I used twice as much Roundup as I did five years ago. It doesn't pay anymore."
I asked a naive question: why he didn't just switch to conventional soy, which was also still sought after on the global market? The farmer shook his head: "I'm surrounded by genetically modified soy. It would immediately contaminate my seeds. Besides, Monsanto has already bought up most of the seed companies in Argentina. You have to travel far and wide to find conventional seed."
The "green gold" was driving the farmer into bankruptcy. If soy production proved uneconomic, wouldn't it just do away with itself? The farmer had to laugh: "Unfortunately not. With my 130 hectares I can no longer make any profit; someone with 500 hectares can still make a living, but at some point you'll need 5,000 hectares. Soon the whole country will belong to just a few investment companies," said the last of the Mohicans and started off in his sprayer. Time is money.
From Laboulaye we drove almost 1,000 kilometers northwards without stopping. We saw no intact forest areas along the way, only endless fields of soy and maize monocultures. Where were the "high value" forests the WWF claims to have saved through its constructive dialogue with industry? Jorge Rulli didn't know either: "The forests that have been spared are mainly up in the mountains, so they're of no interest to industrial agriculture. The FVSA/WWF Argentina appears to be satisfied with the existing national parks. What's even worse: they're not really doing anything to stop the destruction of the forests in favor of the soy industry." As he spoke these words he fished a big stack of paper out of his briefcase: the minutes of the meeting of the Forum of the 100 Million.
"Someone" had passed the minutes on to him. The document proves that the WWF had actively participated in choosing which forest areas would be approved for destruction. At the September 2004 meeting of the Forum, WWF representative Juan Rodrigo Walsh reported on the achievements of his working group, the Initiative for Forest Conversion, headed by himself. From the beginning the goal of the Forum had been to transform 5 to 12 million hectares into land suitable for the "sustainable" production of grain and oil fruit. The minutes of the forum meeting from Sept. 9th 2004 read: "Juan Rodrigo Walsh reported on the progress made by the Initiative for Forest Conversion, which he coordinates in Argentina and Paraguay with the support of the WWF via the FVSA (WWF Argentina). He described the methods and steps being taken in this dialogue-led process. He concentrated in his report on the subject of sustainability -- on a worldwide scale." 
The sacrifice of the forest apparently posed no problem for Dr. Laurence, head of the FVSA/WWF Argentina at the time. Because, according to him, thanks to the soy fields, the Pampa was "greener now than before". Furthermore, to combat soil erosion many agribusinesses were even leaving untouched green strips between the huge monoculture fields: "Those are green corridors, which allow animals to move freely over a wide area in search of mating partners. Thus biodiversity is maintained."