Brazilian Agriculture and Environmental Legislation: Status and Future Challenges

Brazilian Agriculture and Environmental Legislation: Status and Future Challenges

Focali researcher Göran Berndes is co-author to this article published in Environmental Science & Technology, 2010, 44 (16), pp 6046–6053

Brazilian agriculture covers about one-third of the land area and is expected to expand further. We assessed the compliance of present Brazilian agriculture with environmental legislation and identified challenges for agricultural development connected to this legislation. We found (i) minor illegal land use in protected areas under public administration, (ii) a large deficit in legal reserves and protected riparian zones on private farmland, and (iii) large areas of unprotected natural vegetation in regions experiencing agriculture expansion. Achieving full compliance with the environmental  laws as they presently stand would require drastic changes in agricultural land use, where large agricultural areas are taken out of production and converted back to natural vegetation. The outcome of a full compliance with environmental legislation  might not be satisfactory due to leakage, where pristine unprotected areas become converted to compensate for lost production as current agricultural areas are reconverted to protected natural vegetation. Realizing the desired protection of biodiversity and natural vegetation, while expanding agriculture to meet food and biofuel demand, may require a new approach to environmental protection. New legal and regulatory instruments and the establishment of alternative development models should be considered.

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