Rainforest loss shocks Brazil
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest last year was the second worst ever, figures released by the Brazilian government have shown. Satellite photos and other data showed that ranchers, loggers and especially soy bean farmers felled more than 10,000 square miles.
The figures shocked 's environment minister, Marina Silva, who told delegates to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre earlier this year that she believed that increases in deforestation had been stemmed and that illegal deforestation was under control.
In fact, the destruction was nearly 6% higher than in the same period in 2003, when 9,500 square miles were destroyed.
"We will intensify our actions to fight illegal deforestation in the most critical areas," Ms Silva said. She added that deforestation in several Amazon states had decreased.
Just under half of the deforestation occurred in the state of Mato Grosso, where trees have been replaced with soya fields, largely to supply the booming European market, which has moved away from genetically modified soya grown mainly in the , and rapidly industrialising .
Last year soya exports propelled to a record trade surplus. New figures show more than 70% of the loss occurred between May and July 2004, immediately after the adoption of President Lula's plan to curb deforestation.
Environmentalists were dismayed at the figures, which were announced nearly a year after the Brazilian government pledged $140m (£76.25m) to increase surveillance of threatened areas and create large environmental reserves.
"Agribusiness and illegal logging are key culprits. President Lula's government is facing a fundamental contradiction: to fight Amazon deforestation or to promote the expansion of agribusiness to pay the Brazilian external debt", said Paulo Adario, head of of Greenpeace Amazon. "The government needs to restrict soya plantations to areas already deforested, combat illegal logging, and effectively implement their own anti-deforestation plan", he said.
Source: The Guardian