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2-Plants: Brazil non-GM soy seen threatening rain forests



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TITLE:  Brazil non-GM soy seen threatening rain forests
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   Nov 5, 2002

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Brazil non-GM soy seen threatening rain forests

 LONDON - Green groups have praised Brazil's rejection of gene-modified 
(GM) soybean production but fear the policy will take a heavy toll on the 
Amazon rain forests.

 "Soya farming really is emerging as the critical driver of Amazonian 
deforestation," William Laurance of the Panama-based Smithsonian Tropical 
Research Institute told Reuters.

Andy Tait of the Greenpeace environment group added: "Ironically, Brazil's 
choice to produce non-GM soya is resulting in huge tracks of land being 
cleared."

Brazil, the world's second largest producer and exporter of soybeans with 
over 24 percent of global output, has resisted the trend that has seen the 
United States and other producers shift to gene-modified varieties over the 
past decade.

But its stand is fraught with dangers, Tait said.

"Contamination is coming in from Argentina, one of the main GM soya 
producers. A lot of the soya in the south of Brazil is already 
contaminated."

Brazilian farmers seeking to grow non-GM soybeans had been forced to move 
continuously north and into the rain forests, where industrial farming 
methods meant trees had to go.

NEW ROADS

"Historically, the Amazon has been nibbled away at the edges, but now 
what's been happening is like somebody going right in and chopping it right 
up," Laurance said.

The government was spending heavily to improve infrastructure under its 
Advance Brazil programme.

"Much of the infrastructure that this programme is going to involve is for 
instance peeling about seven and a half thousand kilometres of 
highways...transportation projects, channelling and damming three large 
river systems and so on," Laurance added.

He estimated that by 2020 as much as 42 percent of the Amazon forest might 
have disappeared or suffered severe damage.

"We have to realise that the Amazon as the world's largest remaining area 
of intact forest is going to be dramatically transformed by these 
avalanches of projects trying to accommodate industrial soya farming," 
Laurance said.

Amazonia covers some 7 million square kilometres of land, with about 5 
million square kilometres in Brazil.

It accounts for much more of the world's rainfall than previously supposed, 
recent research shows, and ecologists fear that deforestation will threaten 
the world's water supply.

Studies have also suggested that the Amazon may be soaking up as much as 
eight percent of man's annual carbon dioxide emissions.



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