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Why This Matters: The study’s lead author Raoni Rajão said, “Until now, agribusiness and the Brazilian government have claimed that they cannot monitor the entire supply chain, nor distinguish the legal from the illegal deforestation.” This new study undercuts that idea, showing that Brazil can (and must) monitor agribusiness’ connections to illegal deforestation. Indeed, foreign investors “that collectively control some $3.7 billion in assets warned the Brazilian government in a letter that investors were steering away from countries that are accelerating the degradation of ecosystems,” according to The Times.
Agriculture and Politics in Brazil
Brazil plays a crucial role in the EU food system. According to YaleE360, “roughly 41 percent of the EU’s soy imports come from Brazil each year, totaling 13.6 million metric tons.” That means huge amounts of soy imports– about 2 million tons— are entering the EU after being grown on illegally deforested land.
Under President Bolsonaro, deforestation rates have gone up 25 percent in just the first half of 2020. Last year, many accused President Bolsonaro of “encouraging the activity of illegal ranchers, miners and loggers,” as CNN reported. And, as YaleE360 noted, President Bolsonaro “has led a widespread dismantling of environmental laws since taking office.”
However, it is critical to also pay attention not just to the land, but to the people residing on it. As The Economist noted, “reducing deforestation will require consensus on tricky issues like the fate of tens of thousands of poor settlers on public lands in the Amazon, where half of deforestation takes place.” Any policy on deforestation must take into account the people who rely on the land for survival.
Just last week, according to The Times, “Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn, said Brazil has managed in the past to rein in deforestation by protecting Indigenous communities, shielding natural forests and aggressively enforcing the law.”
“Brazil was a world leader in dramatically reducing deforestation, and showed the world that they could significantly increase agricultural production at the same time,” he said in an email. “They can do so again.”
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