December 4, 2020

Bolsonaro revokes the decree that prohibited the planting of sugarcane in the Amazon

The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, revoked a decree that prohibited the planting of sugarcane in areas that still preserve their native vegetation, such as the Amazon and the Pantanal, according to the document published Wednesday in the official newspaper.

The decree had been approved in September 2009, during the Government of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in order to regulate the uncontrolled expansion of sugarcane cultivation in places such as the Amazon and the Pantanal.

The Amazon occupies about five million square kilometers in the north of the country, and the Pantanal, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, is one of the largest wetlands in America.

The revocation of the decree was harshly criticized by various environmental organizations, including WWF.

According to the NGO, the decree signed in 2009 was "fundamental to project the sucro energy sector on the international stage, providing guarantees that Brazilian production followed environmental criteria, facilitating the entry of ethanol into the markets with more rigid environmental rules" .

The document signed by Bolsonaro, according to WWF, "puts at risk" not only the protection of the Amazon and the Pantanal, but also "areas of natural vegetation previously protected", mainly in the Cerrado (Brazilian savanna).

"It is one more step back in Brazilian environmental policy," WWF said in a statement.

The measure was also condemned by the former Minister of Environment of Brazil Carlos Minc, one of the promoters of the decree and who said that Bolsonaro's decision "stains" the image of ethanol in the world market.

"The decree that (Bolsonaro) revoked was the biggest victory I got in the MMA (Ministry of Environment) in defense of the Pantanal and the Amazon – against the uncontrolled expansion of sugarcane. It's amazing !!!", the former minister exclaimed.

Brazil, the world's largest producer of ethanol from sugarcane, approved the measure a decade ago, at a time when the country was leading a project to incentivize the global production and consumption of that biofuel because it is less polluting than gasoline

The Sugarcane Industry Union (UNICA) said Wednesday that the sector is committed to sustainable development, but considered that the 2009 decree played an important role in the past and is currently outdated by the "modernity of the Forest Code ".

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