Brazil has been working hard to eliminate illegal deforestation in the Amazon, and over the past 20 years or so the prevailing trend in deforestation has been decidedly downward. In terms specifically regarding agriculture, Brazil has some of the strictest environmental laws in the world. The Forest Code stipulates that farmers in the Amazon must set aside 80% of their land to native vegetation – in this case, forestry. This code is strictly policed and implemented, and any farmers that do not respect it face a number of sanctions, including for example being unable to access credit from rural support agencies and banks. At the same time vast national parks and indigenous homelands also provide protection against deforestation.
The development and expansion of Brazilian agriculture over the past 50 years has been focused on producing more with less, converting unproductive and abandoned scrubland into nutrient-rich and fertile farmland, and adopting clever agricultural practices that are in harmony with Brazil’s tropical climate. Parts of the Cerrado have been selectively converted to farmland, which in turn protects the dense forests of the Amazon and of the Mata Atlântica biomes. Two-thirds of Brazil is covered in native vegetation, and 50% of the Cerrado has been left in its natural state.
No. Brazil is the world’s most biodiverse country in the world. Remember that 66% of the entire country is covered in native vegetation. Brazil’s largest agricultural exports include grains such as soyabeans. These crops are grown on just 7.5% of the country’s land. It also has some of the toughest environmental protection laws relating to the agricultural sector anywhere in the world.
No. Brazil produces a wide and rich variety of crops, livestock and food products. From coffee to cocoa, soya to sugarcane, apples to açaí and butter to beef. Over 90% of all Brazilian farms are small- or medium-sized holdings of under 100ha.
Brazil’s livestock enjoy warm temperatures, spacious environment and locally-sourced feed.
Brazilian cattle typically pasture outdoors year-round until a few months before slaughter, and almost 90% of all Brazilian beef is grass fed. Allowing cattle to graze freely around the year respects their natural behaviour and actively promotes their health and welfare. It also means that they are not packed in together for several months of the year in the dark sheds of the intensive farming practices common in some other jurisdictions. Cattle pasturing in the integrated livestock-forestry systems also benefit from the shade of trees which reduces the ambient temperature by up to 5ºC, which is excellent for the animal’s thermal comfort and wellbeing.
Brazil’s poultry too enjoy greater space and lower density than many other major-scale poultry production countries around the world. Density of chicken housing in Brazil is for example on average 13% lower than in the EU. They are raised in open-sided houses that are naturally lit by daylight, naturally ventilated, and require no heating. This has implicit benefits for animal welfare. Completely natural ventilation not only removes excess heat, moisture, dust and odours, but also helps dilute and expel airborne disease organisms. This in turn limits the use of antibiotics.
Brazil’s pig production is no longer a backyard activity and is an advanced and integrated production chain. The majority of pig farms are integrated into a system that closely links farmers to meat processors, which allows for close control over quality standards and animal welfare. All pork produced is hormone-free and subject to strict quality and health control processes, overseen by Brazil’s agriculture ministry and national and international inspectors.
Not at all. This is a selective ban imposed by the EU on the exportation of products from a limited number of plants. It was thanks to Brazil’s rigorous policing of processing plants that these cases of non-compliance were brought to light and the authorities are working to ensure that all processing plants respect Brazil’s strict standards. It should be noted that all of the exports banned by the EU come under the tariff-free quota, but no such ban is imposed on non-tariff-free meat. Brazil is one of the world’s leading exporter of beef and chicken, and a global community of consumers trust the quality and safety of Brazilian meat.
Yes and no. As in yes, they are good for the environment, and no, they do not compete with food crops for land. It’s an attested fact that sugarcane ethanol cuts transport emissions by 70% compared to petrol. Brazil has replaced more than 40% of petrol consumption with ethanol, saving in its flex-fuel car fleet alone an average of 28.5m tonnes CO2eq per year.
Sugarcane is grown on only 17% of the total cropland in Brazil, or just over 1% of the entire national territory. To suggest that the sugarcane used for energy represents ‘fuel-for-food’ is simply untrue. In 2016 the sugarcane cultivation represented 10.8m ha, producing 665.6m tonnes of sugarcane, 33.5m tonnes of sugar and 30,500m3 of ethanol (CONAB). At the same time, yields of food crops has also grown. So there is simply no competition.
Genetically-modified (GM) crops are entirely safe. There are hundreds of scientific studies that attest to this and there has not been a single study that proves they are anything but safe. In the 20-plus years on the market, GM crops have not caused or contributed to a single illness. In the spring of 2016, The US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) researched the issue of GMO safety and concluded, again, that GM crops are safe. Their study found “no substantial evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered crops and conventionally bred crops.” More than 20 scientists, researchers, agricultural and industry experts reviewed over 20 years of data since GMOs were introduced, including nearly 900 studies and publications, animal studies, allergenicity testing and North American and European health data and concluded that GMOs posed no risk to our health.
Man has been crossbreeding species for millennia and laboratory genetic modification is just a more scientific approach to a longstanding tradition. Brazil’s agronomic institute IAC and Embrapa have developed varieties of soya, maize and cotton that are adapted to specific conditions of latitude, climate and soil of different Brazilian regions. These crops address issues of low fertility, drought, pest attacks and improve the nutritional and functional quality of food. This in turn saves agricultural inputs such as water and pesticide use. The use of insect-resistant soya during in the 2013–15 growing period alone led to a 3.6m kg decrease of pesticide use.
Brazil exports agricultural products to 162 countries. The biggest importers of Brazil’s agricultural products in terms of value are China (USD26.6bn), the EU (USD16.9bn), the US (USD6.7bn), Japan (USD2.6bn), Hong Kong (USD2.5bn), Iran (USD2.3bn), Russia (USD2.3bn), Saudi Arabia (USD2.1bn), Egypt (USD 2bn), and South Korea (USD1.8bn).