Knowledge for better food systems

Amazonian deforestation: agricultural exports, cattle, soy and timber interactions

This article in Science Daily is based on materials prepared by the French Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)  It argues that Brazil’s reliance on agricultural exports to drive economic growth is environmentally unsustainable and highlights the link between deforestation for cattle grazing, soy production on cleared land which pushes cattle further into the forest, and the sale of high-value timber.  The article states that government controls introduced from the year 2000 have scaled down deforestation from around 20,000 to 6,000 km² per year, but the threat of an increase in world demand is always just over the horizon, with implications for further deforestation.

This article in Science Daily is based on materials prepared by the French Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)  It argues that Brazil’s reliance on agricultural exports to drive economic growth is environmentally unsustainable and highlights the link between deforestation for cattle grazing, soy production on cleared land which pushes cattle further into the forest, and the sale of high-value timber.  The article states that government controls introduced from the year 2000 have scaled down deforestation from around 20,000 to 6,000 km² per year, but the threat of an increase in world demand is always just over the horizon, with implications for further deforestation.

You can read the Science Daily article here.

The IRD’s materials are here.

Note that China is now the world’s biggest buyer of Brazilian soy.  The Nature Conservancy has published a report on the Brazil-China soybean trade – ref: Brown-Lima C, Cooney M and Cleary D (undated) An overview of the Brazil-China soybean trade and its strategic implications for conservation. The Nature Conservancy, Latin America
 
The report finds that “China’s demand for Brazilian soybeans has expanded, is expanding, and will expand. Much of that demand has been and will be met from the state of Mato Grosso, an agricultural powerhouse that also contains large areas of intact and highly biodiverse forests and grasslands. It is important to ensure, in containing the environmental impacts of soy in the Amazon, that pressure for habitat conversion is not simply displaced to the Cerrado.” The report also says “It is encouraging to see that under all the scenarios projected in this report, expansion in demand from China for soy in Mato Grosso over the next decade can easily be met through converting pasture to cropland,” but it doesn’t seem to consider the implications of that conversion for the release of stored carbon into the atmosphere.

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Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean occupies the central and southern portion of the Americas. The region is home to the world’s largest river (the Amazon River), the largest rainforest (the Amazon Rainforest), and the longest mountain range (the Andes). Export-oriented agriculture constitutes an important part of the economy, especially in Brazil and Argentina. This large continent has a range of climates spanning the ice of Patagonia, the tropical forests of much of the continent, and more temperate regions in, for example, Mexico and Chile. Due to the greatly differing geography and economic development in the continent, all types of agriculture can be found in Latin America. Subsistence farming and cash cropping with coffee, cocoa and so on are common in many nations including most of central America, whereas large-scale beef production in the cerrado of Brazil provides an example of hyper-large farms run by large businesses.

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