A new report by Human Rights Watch finds that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is a lucrative business largely driven by criminal networks that threaten and attack government officials, forest defenders and indigenous people who try to stop them.
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British fast food restaurants and grocery chains, including Tesco, Morrisons and McDonald’s, buy their chicken from Cargill, which feeds its poultry with imported soy, much of it apparently coming from the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado — areas rapidly being deforested for new soy plantations. Retailers have so far not used their leverage over Cargill to compel it to support a soy moratorium expansion.
The Brazilian government has revised upward its estimate for the extent of Amazon rainforest destroyed last year. Figures released last week by Brazil’s National Space Research Agency (INPE) put Amazon deforestation at 6,207 square kilometres for the year ended July 31, 2015. That represents an increase of 6.5 percent relative to the estimate of 5,831 square kilometres published last December.
Imazon, a group that tracks forest trends in Brazil, released data suggesting deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon may be on the rise after years of remaining at historic lows. The data shows that the deforestation during the month of June 2016 is the highest level recorded in a single month since November 2007. Forest clearing in Brazil often rises in dry years and when the national currency is weak, which makes agricultural exports more profitable. Currently, both conditions are present in Brazil. INPE, Brazil’s national satellite agency, provides official deforestation quarterly. The rise of deforestation trend in Brazil could be further confirmed after both INPE and Imazon release data next month.
Satellite data analysis suggests deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon may have reached a 7-year high. Imazon, a Belém-based non-profit, released data showing deforestation in the region pacing ahead of the previous year’s level for 13 months consecutively. The 12-month moving average of short-term deforestation alert data has reached levels that have not been seen since 2008. This hasn’t yet been confirmed by the Brazilian government who now report statistics quarterly for its deforestation system, but recent figures released by INPE mirror this data.
Imazon’s newest study shows that, between August 2012 and July 2014, 90% deforestation in Brazilian Amazon happened in protected areas, while 10% occurred outside protected areas. During the two years’ period, forest loss was heavily concentrated in areas where infrastructure was expanding and management plans and funding were lacking. The study also recommends possible measures to against the deforestation, including law enforcement, eviction of non-traditional settlers from illegally occupied forests, and state resettlement schemes, etc.
A study published in the journal Science, led by Holly Gibbs of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that the moratorium on forest conversion established by Brazilian soy giants in 2006 dramatically reduce deforestation for soy expansion in the Amazon, and have been more effective in cutting forest destruction than the government's land use policy in the region. The study is based on spatial analysis across thousands of farm in the Brazilian Amazon and cerrado, a woody grassland, and researchers compared forest loss before and after the moratorium was established.
Brazil’s Environmental Minister Izabella Teixeira has said that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has increased by 28 per cent in the past year.
Provisional statistics suggest that the increase has seen 5,843 sq km of rainforest suffer from deforestation between August 2012 and July 2013, compared to 4,571 sq km in the previous 12 months. Although the statistics are still significantly below those of 2004, the Brazilian Government is still concerned that the rate of deforestation is now on the rise. Many environmentalists blame the upwards trend on a forest protection law reform in 2012, which reduced the protected areas in farms and declared an amnesty for all areas destroyed before 2008.
Although the news of the 28% increase in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon last week was unwelcomed, it was not surprising. The rise is attributable to the fact that there are still no positive incentives available to farmers and livestock growers. This study reviews four hypotheses from the media and literature asking why deforestation has increased but concludes that deforestation is a result of a combination of factors.
The Brazilian government released data that confirmed an increase in Amazon forest loss, with the majority of clearing taking place in Mato Grosso for agriculture. Reasons for the increase are thought to derive from weakening of the country's Forest Code, which limits clearing on private forest land, and agricultural exports have also become more commercially attractive for farmers.