Cattle, not soya, most harms Amazon

In deforestation of the Amazon rain forest, cattle ranchers are bigger culprits than soya farmers, according to a study of Brazil’s commodity exporters, Reuters reported. The exporters’ environmental record is coming under increasing international scrutiny in Brazil, the world’s biggest beef exporter and the second-largest exporter of soya, much of which is bought by China.


“The big villain of Amazon destruction is cattle ranching,” said Paulo Adario, Amazon campaign coordinator for Greenpeace, which produced the study with other environmental groups and the soya industry. Research showed that only 12 of 630 sample Amazon areas deforested since July 2006 — or 0.88% of 157,896 hectares — were planted with soya. Nearly 200 areas were converted into pasture land for cattle, however, while the rest had not yet been put to use.


Along with loggers, ranchers and peasants, large-scale farmers often are blamed for contributing to loss of the rain forest. Brazil’s agricultural frontier has expanded in recent years because of strong foreign demand for the country’s commodities. Farm competitors in the United States and Europe often criticise Brazilian exports, including sugar and beef, for contributing to deforestation.


Adario said the size of deforested plots had been falling consistently in recent years. That suggests that soya farmers, who require large areas to be efficient, were no longer involved directly in clearing forest. Brazil’s soya industry, with exports of US$18 billion in 2008, agreed in July 2006 not to trade soya from deforested areas.


Brazil aims to reduce deforestation in the 12 months through July to about 9,500 square kilometres, down from 11,900 square kilometres in the preceding year.


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