Chamber of Deputies approves devastation of the Forest Code under the orders of agribusiness

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Chamber of Deputies decided today that Brazil should not be the country of the future. By 410 votes to only 63, federal deputies approved changes to the Brazilian Forest Code that are set to compromise the country's biodiversity as well as the sustainability of Brazilian agriculture. “Brazil woke up this morning with news of the murder of one of the Amazon Rainforest's strongest advocates,” announced Paulo Adario, director of Greenpeace's Amazon Campaign. He honored José Claudio Silva, a rubber extraction leader who was killed in Pará by loggers on the eve of the Chamber vote. “And Brazil went to sleep with the news that most of our deputies have approved the destruction of our forests.”

 To become law, the text voted on in the Chamber of Deputies must pass the scrutiny of the Senate. Perhaps there the senators will avoid repeating the same mistakes made by the federal deputies during the process which ended in tonight's vote. Since the beginning of the Code's revision, led by deputy Aldo Rebelo (Communist Party of Brazil, São Paulo), the parliamentarians have seldom been objective. They have chosen to side with agribusiness, which destroys and wreaks havoc on our natural resources. Scientists and proponents of modern agriculture, who do not mix production with deforestation, have barely had their voices heard amid the shouts and screams of rural interests that have seized control of the country's environmental agenda in Congress.

 The project approved in the Chamber has caused a miracle in which written legislation that acts to defend Brazil's forests has been transformed into a law which encourages the unbridled expansion of agriculture and livestock. The project will reward deforestation by granting amnesty to loggers and it will encourages additional destruction of what remains of Brazil's forests by reducing the compulsory percentage of estate land that must retain its natural vegetation. In effect, the project reduces the federal government's power to manage Brazil's environmental heritage.

 As well as threatening biodiversity and agricultural productivity (by compromising the quality of natural resources), the project will have negative impacts on the country's diplomacy and economy. The text approved by the federal deputies affects directly the agreements made by the large consumer corporations of Brazilian agricultural products by allowing them to rid their supply chains from the stain of deforestation.

 The approval of the project also casts doubt on Brazil's ability to maintain the commitment made during the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation is, after all, the main reason why Brazil is ranked so high on the list of countries that most contribute to global warming (it is the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gasses). After a downward trend in Amazonian deforestation over the past five years, it recently rose again.

 The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) announced last week that deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest was 570% higher than the 2010 figure for the same period. According to Paulo Adario, director of Greenpeace's Amazon campaign, “there is clearly a race to deforest the region, and this race has been encouraged by modifications to be made to the Forest Code.” He continued by explaining that “those who are in the countryside know that an explosion in deforestation is not common during in this period. It usually starts in the dry season.”

The vote in the Chamber of Deputies throws the spotlight onto president Dilma Rouseff. During her electoral campaign last year, she promised she would veto any legislation that might lead to an increase in deforestation or give amnesties to loggers. She also assured voters that she would not retreat from the commitment made by her predecessor, Lula Inacio da Silva, to reduce Amazonian deforestation by 80%. But her government, however, has virtually washed its hands of what happened in the Chamber.

 The decision by the Chamber of Deputies to trample over the commitments made by the federal government calls into question the country's credibility in hosting the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development next year. “Brazil's capacity to lead global action against deforestation and climatic changes is under serious doubt,” Adario explained. “If Dilma does not act to influence Congress' decisions in the interests of maintaining our biodiversity, her government has succumbed to the interests of agribusiness and is putting the international position of the country at stake.”

Translated by Eric H.