Unease among Brazil’s farmers as Congress votes on GM terminator seeds

December 12, 2013

Jonathan Watts & John Vidal – The Guardian, 12/12/2013

Brazil is set to break a global moratorium on genetically-modified “terminator” seeds, which are said to threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world.

The sterile or “suicide” seeds are produced by means of genetic use restriction technology, which makes crops die off after one harvest without producing offspring. As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds for each planting, which reduces their self-sufficiency and makes them dependent on major seed and chemical companies.

Environmentalists fear that any such move by Brazil – one of the biggest agricultural producers on the planet – could produce a domino effect that would result in the worldwide adoption of the controversial technology.

Destruction of Brazil’s Amazon jumps 28%

November 18, 2013

Marco Sibaja – Associated Press, 11/14/2013

Brazil’s government reported Thursday that annual destruction of its Amazon rainforest jumped by 28 percent after four straight years of declines, an increase activists said was linked to recent loosening of the nation’s environmental law meant to protect the jungle.

However, the destruction was still the second-lowest amount of jungle destroyed since Brazil began tracking deforestation in 1988.

The increase in deforestation came in the August 2012 through July 2013 period, the time when Brazil annually measures the destruction of the forest by studying satellite images. The country registered its lowest level of Amazon felling the year before.

Read more…

Inter-American Development Bank: Brazil will receive $16.45 million to support forest and climate information gathering and systematization

November 5, 2013

IDB News Release, 11/04/2013

The Forest Investment Program (FIP) Sub Committee, held in Washington DC, has approved $16.45 million that will support an initiative for forest and climate information gathering and systematization in Brazil. The project’s objective is to generate and disseminate forest information to support public and private sectors in management initiatives aimed at the conservation and enhancement of carbon stocks and forest resources in the Cerrado area.

The Cerrado Is a large tropical savannah ecoregion in Brazil that accounts for 22 per cent of the of the country’s extension with almost 2 million km2, and which includes vast areas in the states of Goias, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Tocantins, Minas Gerais, Bahia, Maranhao, Piaui, Sao Paulo and Parana.

The Cerrado biome is characterized by high concentrations of carbon and its rich biodiversity. However, the area has been subject to the threat posed by the expansion of extensive agriculture, particularly soy, and charcoal production.

Worst drought in decades hits Brazil’s northeast

January 4, 2013

Caroline Stauffer – Reuters, 01/04/2013

Brazil’s Northeast is suffering its worst drought in decades, threatening hydro-power supplies in an area prone to blackouts and potentially slowing economic growth in one of the country’s emerging agricultural frontiers.

Lack of rain has hurt corn and cotton crops, left cattle and goats to starve to death in dry pastures and wiped some 30 percent off sugar cane production in the region responsible for 10 percent of Brazil’s cane output.

Thousands of subsistence farmers have seen their livelihoods wither away in recent months as animal carcasses lie abandoned in some areas that have seen almost no rain in two years.

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How illegal logging in Brazil’s Amazon turns ‘legal’

November 29, 2012

Sue Branford – BBC, 11/28/2012

Small settler communities are seeing their land targeted by loggers, BBC.

Deforestation in Brazil’s huge Amazon region has slowed in recent years, and this week the government said it was at its lowest level since monitoring began 24 years ago. But despite tougher regulations, unscrupulous loggers are still finding ways to get timber out of the jungle and selling it as legally felled wood, locals say.

Fabio Lourenco de Souza, a young Brazilian farmer, lives in a settlement known as PDS Esperanca (Hope), in the Xingu river valley in eastern Amazonia.

Although the land is rich in tropical timber, along with most of the 300 families in the settlement, he wants nothing to do with loggers.

“It makes no sense at all for us to start logging the timber on our settlement,” says Fabio, who stops work on the construction of a new wooden house for himself and his family to talk. “The logging companies would not pay us enough for the wood, and would destroy the forest, and we need it for the future of our children.”

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Brazil’s Amazon rangers battle farmers’ burning business logic

November 15, 2012

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 11/14/2012


As his helicopter descends through the smoke towards an Amazonian inferno, Evandro Carlos Selva checks the co-ordinates via a global positioning satellite and radios back to base a witness testimony to deforestation.

Flames lick up from below the canopy, smoke billows across the horizon, and down below, the carbon that has been stored in the forest for hundreds of years is released into the atmosphere.

Skeletal trees are charred grey, others burnt black. Nearby, what was once forest is reduced to an expanse of ash, dust and embers. Trudging through the debris, Carlos Selva points to a soya farm: “They’ve been paid to do this. Forty per cent of next year’s harvest on this land has already been bought.”

The clearance is illegal and Carlos Selva – a ranger with Brazil‘s environmental protection agency, Ibama – sets in motion the process of levying fines, business embargos and other penalties that have helped to slow the pace of deforestation by almost 80% in the past eight years. This represents impressive progress, but it is at risk. The pressure to convert more Amazonian forest is growing stronger due to drought in the US, rising world food prices and a weakening of Brazilian laws.

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The GM tree plantations bred to satisfy the world’s energy needs

November 15, 2012

John Vidal – The Guardian, 11/15/2012

It’s a timber company’s dream but a horrific industrial vision for others: massive plantations of densely planted GM eucalyptus trees stretching across Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and China, engineered to grow 40% faster for use as paper, as pellets for power stations and as fuel for cars.

The prospect is close, says Stanley Hirsch, chief executive of the Israeli biotech company FuturaGene. All that is missing, he says, are permissions from governments for the trees to be grown commercially, and backing from conservation groups and certification bodies.

FuturaGene has spent 11 years trialling thousands of GM eucalyptus and poplar trees on 100-hectare plots in Israel, China and outside São Paulo in Brazil, and is now at the last stages of the Brazilian regulatory process for commercial planting. Thanks to a gene taken from the common, fast-growing Arabidopsis weed, the company has found a way to alter the structure of plant cell walls to stimulate the natural growth process. The company says its modified eucalyptus trees can grow 5 metres (16ft) a year, with 20%-30% more mass than a normal eucalyptus. In just five and a half years they are 27 metres high.

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Doha conference: carbon cuts talks must wait, says key negotiator

November 15, 2012

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 11/15/2012

The debate on whether the world needs stronger greenhouse gas cuts to keep the planet from warming by 2C should be deferred until next year, according to Brazil‘s lead negotiator at the upcoming talks in Doha.

Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo says delegates at Qatar – the most important climate negotiations of the year – should prioritise an extension of the Kyoto protocol and the rules for a longer-term agreement rather than be distracted by the crucial but contentious issue of emissions reductions.

Environmental groups, however, are calling for greater urgency from Brazil, a country that has won plaudits at previous gatherings for leading the search for common ground between wealthy and developing nations.

With the Kyoto protocol set to expire at the end of the year, Figueiredo told the Guardian there is an urgent need to ensure the continuation of a process that has been the foundation of international discussions for more than a decade, despite its shrinking support among the initial signatories.

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Brazil Soybean Forecast Raised to 83 Million Tons: Conab

November 8, 2012

Mario Sergio Lima – Bloomberg, 11/08/2012

Soybean output in Brazil, set to surpass the U.S. as the largest grower, will rise more than previously expected in the current season, the government said.

Growers will harvest as much as 83 million metric tons in the year that started Sept. 1, more than the 82.8 million tons estimated last month, the Agriculture Ministry’s crop- forecasting agency, known as Conab, said in its second report for this season. Production will rise from 66.4 million tons collected in the past season.

The corn forecast was cut to as much as 72.9 million tons from 73.2 million tons estimated in October. Production will drop from 73 million tons in the previous season, Conab said.

Read here…

Greenpeace: Brazil lost sense of urgency regarding climate change

November 7, 2012

Correio do Brasil, 11/07/2012

The Joint Committee on Climate Change discussed the government sectorial plans for climate change.

The campaign director of the non-governmental organization Greenpeace, Sérgio Leitão, affirmed that the federal government lost sight of the urgency of addressing climate change issues in the country. On Wednesday, he attended a public meeting held by the Permanent Joint Commission of Climate Change in the National Congress.

“A major concern of Greenpeace is that we are losing the sense of urgency on the issue. Our government does not give the deserved attention to tackling climate change,” said Leitão during a discussion of public sector plans for mitigation and adaptation to climate change with parliamentarians, experts and government representatives in attendance.

The representative of Greenpeace criticized the sectorial plans that were presented (transportation, energy, heath and urban mobility) for being incomplete or too meek, for example, in the measures taken to reducing gas emissions that cause the greenhouse effect.

Read more (in Portuguese)…


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