Brazil’s Amazon beef plan will ‘legalize deforestation’

For many, the overriding image of agriculture in the Amazon is one of environmental destruction. About 80 percent of deforestation in the region has been attributed to cattle ranching, tainting beef exports. But Brazil’s beef industry hopes to tempt buyers back to the Amazon region, which covers about 40 percent of the country’s total area, with a new deforestation-free pledge. Critics are concerned it could effectively legalize deforestation in the region, report Brian Barth and Flávia Milhorance in FERN’s latest story, produced with The Guardian.

“Previous agricultural development projects have led to the loss of vast tracts of native vegetation in other parts of Brazil, but Amacro’s proponents promise it is being designed to prevent illegal deforestation,” the reporters write of the planned development. One government appointee says the aim is to produce more beef on land that has already been cleared.

But  a federal prosecutor in Acre who handles environmental crimes told a joint investigation of The Guardian/Food & Environment Reporting Network that the effect of the plan is such as “to legalize the deforestation already being done.”

Amacro is the brainchild of Assuero Doca Veronez, a powerful figure in Amazonian agribusiness, who told a Brazilian news site last year that “deforestation for us is synonymous with progress.” Veronez says more intensive cattle ranching will enable more beef to be produced on less land and protect against deforestation. He claims to produce about 2.5 times the state average for beef. “Amacro can contribute to the preservation of these areas,” he says.

The idea that a shift to intensive ranching could cut deforestation in the Amazon is disputed by some researchers. It may be a flawed approach, concluded a University of California report in 2017, which noted, “the opposite could be true”. That’s because the supply chain of cattle to these intensive operations.

Veronez, like most large ranchers, relies on a network of smaller producers, most of whom lack the technical and financial resources to invest in more efficient grazing practices. About 80 percent of deforestation in the region has been attributed to cattle ranching, tainting beef exports.