Brazil’s minister of Agriculture, Reinhold Stephanes, during a meeting with journalists last week in the Brazilian capital, Brasília, spoke in favor of Brazil’s adopting environmental requirements for imports of food.
Stephanes wants to raise debate on the matter due to a series of environmental criteria that Brazilian agriculture must meet in case the New Brazilian Forestry Code, which is now under discussion at the National Congress, is passed.
In broad terms, he stated that to him it is illogical that Brazil should refrain from producing food in certain areas, as a result of requirements imposed by the new law, and then import from countries that are deforesters.
“I want to provide the environmental debate with rationality,” said Stephanes. According to him, if Brazil were to adopt a “reciprocity law,” as he calls the restriction on foreign sales, there would be an impact, for instance, on imports of wheat and milk from Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, and of fruits, olive oil, wines and cheese from Europe.
The ministry of Agriculture said that he will submit the proposal to the commission in charge of the law at the Congress, and that if it is not included in the new Forestry Code, he is going to submit a project of law.
The minister’s intention, however, is to stir up a debate on the matter and exert pressure for the new law not to be so strict. “Grain crops only take up 10% of the national territory, and cannot be blamed for the environmental problem in Brazil and worldwide,” he claimed.
The new law includes, for instance, a requirement for twenty meters of land at river banks not to be farmed. He believes that the distance should be proportional to the size of the river at hand, and that it should be smaller in the case of creeks. “The Egyptian civilization would not have existed if they were not allowed to plant near rivers,” said Stephanes.
The minister also calls for Permanent Preservation Areas (APP) to be legally considered as nature reserves in plots of up to 150 hectares, and that commercial trees may be planted in the other half of the reserve.
APPs are forests located along rivers, springs, riversides, hillsides and hilltops. The legal reserve, in turn, is the legally defined percentage of the forest that should remain intact in rural plots.
Each biome – the Amazon, the Savannah – has a different rate. According to Stephanes, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva agreed with his suggestions.