Sustainable bioproducts in Brazil: disputes and agreements on a common ground agenda for agriculture and nature protection
Journal article, 2016
A key question for food, biofuels, and bioproducts production is how agriculture affects the environment, and social and economic development. In Brazil, a large agricultural producer and among the biologically wealthiest of nations, this question is challenging and opinions often clash. The Brazilian parliament and several stakeholders have recently debated the revision of the Forest Act, the most important legal framework for conservation of natural vegetation on Brazilian private agricultural lands. Past decades have shown improvements in the agricultural sector with respect to productivity and efficiency, along with great reductions in deforestation and growth of environmentally certified production. However, the opposing sides in the debate have ignored this progress and instead continue to entrench their respective combative positions. A structured exchange involving nine experts associated with major producer interests (livestock, crops, planted forest, and charcoal) and environmental NGOs was moderated based on a framework that sorted viewpoints into four categories: (i) common ground - compatible interests considered to be high priority for Brazilian sustainable agricultural development; (ii) serving exclusive nature conservation interest; (iii) serving exclusive agricultural production interest; and (iv) mainly serving the purpose of sustaining dispute. We conclude that the majority of actions and expected future trends reflect achievements and ambitions to balance production and conservation, but much public opinion - and in turn decisions in the parliament and government for agriculture and conservation - is shaped by a perceived conflict between these objectives and a debate that has become, at least to some extent, an end in itself.