Amazon Deforestation Driven by Brazilian Beef Industry

The explosive growth of cattle farming in Brazil seems to be the primary culprit behind an increase in destruction of the Amazon rainforest, says a report released today. While spreading soybean cultivation and logging frequently get the headlines, the Center for International Forestry Research report says that it is beef exports — driven mainly by European demand for certified foot-and-mouth-disease-free meat — that are behind the loss of some 10,000 square miles of the world’s largest continuous rainforest in 2002. That figure is up 40 percent from 2001, and researchers expect even higher 2003 figures, available shortly. European Union countries import almost 40 percent of Brazil’s beef; 35 percent is taken in by Egypt, Russia, and Saudi Arabia; the U.S., which has tight import controls to protect domestic producers, accounted for only 8 percent. Once the province of small local farmers, the Amazon rainforest is now being consumed in large chunks by industrial farms connected with large supermarkets. Enviros have called on the Brazilian government to take measures to slow the destruction.