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December 7, 2010

Amazon Deforestation Lowest in Six Years

Efforts to slow down deforestation in the Amazon Region of Brazil continue to pay dividends. According to a study released last week by the National Institute of Space Studies (INPE), during the twelve month period from August 2009 to August 2010, 6,421 square kilometers of land was deforested, which is a reduction of 77% compared to six years earlier. The latest study marked the sixth straight year in which deforestation in Brazil has declined.

Slowing deforestation in the Amazon Region has a huge affect on the greenhouse gases emitted by Brazil. Nearly three quarters of the greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil are the result of changes in land use and more than half of the gasses are the direct result of deforestation and the burning needed to clear the land.

In addition to cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, limiting deforestation is also seen as a way to improve Brazil's image in the world. Soybean producers in Brazil were surprised several years ago when European organizations claimed that soybean expansion was coming at the expense of deforestation in the Amazon Region. Brazilian commodity organizations claimed that was not the case at all and that more than 90% of the deforestation was for increased cattle ranching and not soybean production. INPE estimates that only 0.25% of the deforestation in the Amazon Region over the last three years was for soybean production.

In fact, the Brazilian Vegetable Oil Association (Abovie), in conjunction with the major grain companies in Brazil, started a program in which they refused to purchase any soybeans from areas in the Amazon Region that were deforested after June of 2006. That program remains in effect today and it has discouraged farmers from clearing land in the Amazon Region for soybean production.