Amazon destruction has accelerated to record levels, according to figures released by the Brazilian government. The annual rate has reached 26,130 square km, the second highest ever - an area equivalent to about six football fields a minute are destroyed. Almost half of the deforestation occurred in the State of Mato Grosso, governed by the largest individual soy producer in the world, Blairo Maggi.
Illegal deforestation for soy production, in the North of State of Mato Grosso.
More than 70 percent of Amazon loss occurred between May and
July 2004,when President Lula's Action Plan to Curb Deforestation
had alreadybeen adopted. The Plan, which was presented in March
2004, took sevenmonths of elaboration and had the participation of
13 Ministriescommitting resources, defining responsibilities and
setting atimetable. During the same period, Lula's Government has
celebrated therapid expansion in grain production and world
leadership in meatexports, with the Minister of Treasury Antonio
Palocci declaring,"Agribusiness is the best business of Brazil.
A national shame
Paulo Adario, our Amazon campaign coordinator, said, "Clearly
Lula'sadministration has failed up to now to implement the Action
Plan and toprotect the Amazon. Although there have been positive
measures taken bythe Government, such as the creation of protected
areas and demarcationof Indigenous lands, the fact that the annual
average of deforestationhas been more than 23,000 km2 for the last
three years is simplyunacceptable. This is a national shame."
The rape of the rainforest
Of the 12,576 square kilometres lost in the State of Mato
Grosso, 4,176km2 were authorised by the government. The rest was
illegal. Maggidoesn't hide his opinion about deforestation: "A 40
percent increase indeforestation doesn't mean anything at all, and
I don't feel theslightest guilt over what we are doing here," Maggi
said in aninterview to The New York Times in September 2003,
referring to theAmazon deforestation rate of the previous year.
Last week the UKnewspaper The Independent exposed Maggi as being
"the man behind ...the rape of the rainforest." But Maggi has
reacted angrily, "I canpersonally say that my company (Grupo
Amaggi) has carried out nodeforestation over the past few years. I
think they (the newspapers)were heavy handed and they exaggerated,"
he said. However, Maggi is thelargest soy producer in the world.
The soya boom is responsible formuch of the deforestation. "It is
turning the rainforest intocattle feed. It is gross," said John
Sauven, head of the rainforestcampaign for Greenpeace UK.
Key culprits and solutions
"Agribusiness and illegal logging are key culprits of
deforestation,"says Adario. "Lula's administration is facing a
fundamentalcontradiction: to fight Amazon deforestation or to
promote theexpansion of agribusiness to pay the Brazilian external
debt. To make areal difference on the ground, the Government needs
to restrict soyplantations only in areas already deforested, combat
illegal logging,continue to create protected areas and effectively
implement their ownanti-deforestation Plan."
By allowing this level of Amazon destruction, the Government is
alsocontributing to the devastating impacts of global warming.
Carbon dioxideemissions from deforestation and burning in the
Amazon are the mainBrazilian contributions to climate change and
there is growing evidencethat climate change is drying out the
forests, creating a vicious cycle.
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