In Brazil, ranchers are opting to use Agent Orange — one of the most toxic herbicides ever concocted, infamous for its use as a defoliant and de facto weapon during the Vietnam War — to clear acres of rainforest. It's illegal to clear the forest, but by spraying swaths of trees with Agent Orange, deployed by helicopter, ranchers stand less chance of detection than if they cleared the land by bulldozing or cutting down trees.

Agent Orange is all sorts of bad news. It not only destroys the trees it hits but also kills (horribly) any wildlife that happens to be hanging out in the area. It can also contaminate groundwater. In Vietnam, it caused birth defects. It's hard to clean up. The ranchers shouldn't be clearing rainforest at all, but if they're going to do it, this is the worst possible way to go about it.

Luckily, Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA (there’s just something inspiring and handsome yet mildly frustrating about that name!) is on the case. Officials just unearthed a four-ton stash of Agent Orange, and fined the person responsible $1.3 million. But at least 440 acres have already been cleared with the stuff.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.