Amazon sugar cane: A threat to the forest

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Science  30 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6383, pp. 1476
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat4208

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  • Biofuels threaten Brazil’s Amazon forest
    • Lucas Ferrante, Post-graduate Program in Ecology, National Institute for Research in Amazonia (INPA), Av. André Araújo, 2936, 69067-375, Manaus
    • Other Contributors:
      • Philip Fearnside, Coordination for Research in Environmental Dynamics, National Institute for Research in Amazonia (INPA), Av. André Araújo, 2936, 69067-375, Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.

    On November 6th Brazil’s president issued a decree revoking the 2009 decree that established zoning for sugarcane in the Brazilian Amazon and Pantanal biomes. In 2018, the Brazilian Senate considered the same measure. As we pointed out in a letter published in Science at the time of the 2018 Senate proposal, allowing sugarcane to expand into Amazonia would affect biodiversity and ecosystem services, with impacts that extend to other areas of the country and could potentially affect Brazil's agricultural production and the global climate1. The Senate rejected the 2018 proposal for fear of international boycotts, and the proposal was even opposed by the Sugarcane Industry Union (UNICA), a position that has now changed2. The president of UNICA, Evandro Gussi, recently published a note on the organization’s website that, ignoring all research on the subject, claimed that environmental zoning for sugarcane would no longer be necessary for sugarcane in the Amazon and Pantanal biomes. His justification was that Renovabio (the biofuels policy approved in 20173) would be sufficient to mitigate these impacts.
    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January 2019, has engaged in constant anti-environmental rhetoric and has greatly reduced protection of the Amazon4. Amazon deforestation rates in Brazil under the Bolsonaro administration have jumped dramatically as compared to the previous two administrations5, which themselves were responsible for a long serie...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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