By Samuel Elliott Novacich, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last week the Brazilian Minister of the Environment, Izabella Teixeira, reported that in the nine month period from August of 2010 to April of 2011, deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest had increased by 27 percent, a reversal of the previous year’s decrease. The greatest increase in deforestation is believed to have occurred in the State of Mato Grosso, the country’s largest producer of soy, where there was an unprecedented 47 percent increase in deforestation as compared to last year.

Slash and burn agriculture in the Amazon, Brazil, News
Slash and burn agriculture in the Amazon, photo by Threat to Democracy/Flickr Creative Commons License.

The alarming information is provided by satellite imagery collected through the Deter monitoring system of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (National Institute of Geographic Research, INPE).

Both INPE and the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, IBAMA) analyzed the data, finding that in this nine month period, a total of 1,848 square kilometers of rainforest had been destroyed, as compared to 1,455 square kilometers that had been deforested during the same period a year earlier.

Past observation has shown that large portions of the Amazon rainforest have been deforested to make way for cattle and soy production. IBAMA officials speculate that this years’ severe increase in deforestation may be a result of speculation regarding a bill currently under consideration in the Brazilian congress that would relax regulations on landowners in the region.

In anticipation of the bill, that would require farmers to preserve smaller percentages of forested land, IBAMA found that many landowners have increased deforestation under the assumption that their actions may soon be within the boundaries of the law.

Brazilian Minister of the Environment, Brazil, News
Izabella Teixeira, Brazilian Minister of the Environment, photo by Wilson Dias/ABr.

Izabella Teixeira, who has called the increase “frightening” and “atypical,” is cautious of blaming the trend entirely on bill speculation, claiming “We still don’t know what is happening. State environmental secretaries will inform us on details.”

Teixeira left clear however, that regardless of motivation for deforestation, the penalty for the crime will be severe: “Those who gamble on deforestation to raise cattle will have their cattle confiscated and turned over to Fome Zero [Zero Hunger, a federal program to combat malnutrition]. Those who gamble on deforestation to plant crops will have their production confiscated and turned over to Fome Zero. This order is meant to suffocate environmental crime.”

To combat illegal deforestation, Teixeira has created an emergency task force to follow the problem and provide daily updates on deforestation trends, primarily in the state of Mato Grosso, where the greatest increases have been seen. The government has also announced plans for additional anti-deforestation operations to be made by the Federal Police and National Force, increases that will involve up to 546 federal law enforcement officials, as well as speculation that the Brazilian Army will be deployed.

In addition to predictions regarding alteration to the Código Florestal (Forestry Code), officials have pointed to increased soy prices as motivation for landowners to clear land for greater cultivation. Soy, as well as cotton, is one of Brazil’s principle export commodities, creating a delicate balancing act between efforts towards environmental protection and agricultural prosperity.


  1. I am very concerned, even living in The Netherlands.
    Yesterday Brazilian politicians took a decisive step towards opening the door to massive new Amazon deforestation! I think Brasil should STOP the new Amazon deforestation in Brasil, and STOP the destruction of our Mother Nature!
    We all should be concerned of our environment. We cannot allow that nature is being destroyed, since so much nature is already destroyed.
    The forests are the “lungs of the world”, we cannot live without the forest.
    Hope the politicians in Brasil will support Mother Nature, since we have only one..!

  2. Just saw a documentary how Brasil is destroying the tropical wood of the Amazone in Sinop. The area is as large as 25 times my country, The Netherlands. They burn the woods and destroy the soil, so it will become a Savanne. It will be impossilbe trees will grow here again. Its a crime against Mother Earth and its destroying our Green World. Parkrangers tried to arrest the illigal destroyment of the wood. However when the parkranger catched the man, it appereart he had a special approval of the state to destroy the Amazon wood. When the new law will arrive it will be even easier to destoy the Amazon tropical wood and Parkrangers can even do less to stop this crual act agains Mother Nature.
    Wished I could do something, even living far away from this area. Hope Brasilians will act against these crimes, since the Brasilian Parliament voted for a law which will make it even more easier to destroy the tropical wood of the Amazone… Will there be any hope? Will Brasilian habitants act against the destroyment of Mother Nature??

  3. After my first visit to Brasil I fell in love with Rio de Janeiro. I guess many Europeans love Brasil. According to a Dutch documetary in the state of Mato Grosso profit grows due to the New Gold: sojabeans. Its great Brasil makes a lot of profit. But what is very disturbing is that one of the most important Sojabean farmers finds it difficult Europe is so concerned of the envirionment and supports Greenpeace. This Brasilian farmer used to be a politician.
    The documentary showed how once the endless sojafields used to be a tropical forest. Nowadays the sojabeanfields are sprayed with tons of poisons so the plants will grow faster.
    With all the tropical forest being destroyed, fields sprayed with tons of poison, without any care for the environment, I guess tourists from all over the world should be concious of this fact when they choose to visit Brasil.
    I do hope most Brasilians care for their beautiful environment, but until now I only see documentaries Brasil is heading for destruction of the Amazone tropical forests. While many tourists visit Brasil for its beautiful nature.
    Hope Brasilians will take action and support the environment, and will care for our Mother Nature before its to late and more and more Tropical Forest is being destroyed. More and more soil is destroyed by burning and is soaked in tons of poison. I do not think we want to take care of Mother Nature this way….

  4. The Amazon is a precious feature of nature and I hate to see these ecosystems disturbed. You are on the right track, it is not a rational concept to destroy something that is so vital to habitats of flora and fauna and all residents alike.


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