House reforms to Brazil’s forest code open loopholes for continued deforestation

Posted on September, 20 2012

Big agribusiness gets a pass from Brazilian House of Representatives on reforestation obligations, and new loopholes for deforestation.
contributed by Aldem Bourscheit / WWF-Brazil

The alterations to the Interim Presidential Edict on the Brazilian Forest Law approved Tuesday by the Brazilian House of Representatives would render the legislation impossible to enforce, according the analysis by WWF-Brazil.

The new text may go before the Senate for voting as early as next Tuesday, 25 September.

WWF-Brazil’s expert on public policies, Kenzo Jucá Ferreira, says the best thing that could happen for Brazilian forests and biodiversity is that altered Interim Edict is allowed to expire on the 8 October deadline without a Senate vote.

“If it were voted and approved in the Senate, that would effectively licence a piece of legislation that has been totally disfigured, that cannot possibly be applied in practise and that contains within it a whole set of unconstitutionalities,” Ferreira said.

In spite of President Dilma’s expressed dissatisfaction with the political agreement that altered the text, the representatives approved without reservations the report of the Mixed Parliamentary Committee that examined the legislation. The committee was largely made up of "Ruralistas" (parliamentary representatives of big landholding and agribusiness interests).

“The text approved yesterday by the representatives opens up even greater margins for deforestation than the text the government published in May,” said Ferreira.

According to the newly approved text, the area of vegetation to be restored along riverbanks, other bodies of water and areas considered Areas of Permanent Protection will be reduced even further for large rural properties than originally foreseen.

In big properties, or in the case of wide rivers, the minimum requirement for the protected vegetation strips has been reduced from 30 to 20 metres. Another concession is that replanting and recuperation of vegetation can now be done using commercial fruit trees in both Areas of Permanent Protection and in Legal Reserve areas of natural vegetation.

In Ferreira’s analysis, this flexibility in the obligation to carry out reforestation in areas that were illegally deforested will now be equally valid for the big rural agribusiness producers, and it will open up new legal loopholes for carrying on with deforestation.

“The House entirely ignored the efforts made by President Dilma to include benefits focused only on subsistence farmers and smallholders,” he said.

Aerial view of forest clearing to create grazing pasture for cattle. Amazon, Brazil.
© WWF / Zig Koch