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Brazil's rainforests under threat after agricultural lobby wins key vote

A law initially intended to protect rainforests from deforestation has been influenced so much by the the country’s powerful agricultural lobby that the law as it is now looks set to actually threaten them.

A deforested area is seen near Novo Progresso in the northern state of Para on Brazil. (File photo)
A deforested area is seen near Novo Progresso in the northern state of Para on Brazil. (File photo)
Image: Andre Penner/AP/Press Association Images

SOME OF BRAZIL’S rainforests could be under threat after a law initially intended to protect them now appears to be placing them at the mercy of agricultural interests as it makes its way through parliament.

The Telegraph reports that the country’s powerful agricultural lobby has scored a major victory after the lower house of congress approved a reform that would open up some protected forests to be used for planting crops and for animal ranchers.

The bill had initially intended to rein in unfettered logging, and increase protections but farm-based economic interests have reshaped the bill, the paper reports, and restrictions that curb deforestation, and have done since 1965, are now under threat.

This is seen as a major blow to new president Dilma Rousseff  who promised, according to The Guardian, to prevent any changes in law that would allow more deforestation or give amnesty to so-called environmental criminals who carry out illegal logging.

The paper reports that as well as this latest legislative blow, official government figures show that there has been a 27 per cent rise in Amazon deforestation in the past year.

The Telegraph adds that whilst current laws allow for as much of 80 per cent of the sprawling Amazon river basin to be  kept as woodland, the new law would allow huge areas to be farmed if they were illegally logged before July 2008.

It would also allow for farming along the riverbanks which are environmentally sensitive.

Agence France Presse reports that despite opposition from environmentalists, scientists, and ten former environment ministers to the end the bill now goes to the Senate.

In a further setback to president Rousseff she was unable to keep her party united as the powerful agricultural and rural lobbies divided lawmakers.

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Hugh O'Connell

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