Brazil Forestry Bill Will Lead to More Felling, Greenpeace Says

Brazil, which hosts 13 percent of the world’s forests, passed a bill last night that may lead to a culture of non-compliance with environmental law by providing amnesty for some farmers that illegally cut trees, according to Greenpeace Brasil.

The legislation, which was approved in a 274-184 vote, creates a precedent by demonstrating to farmers that they will be forgiven for future misdemeanors, Marcelo Furtado, executive director of Sao Paulo-based environmental organization Greenpeace Brasil, said today in a telephone interview.

Brazil’s lawmakers have been wrangling for a year over the new rules as the nation seeks to balance its environmental and agricultural interests. The nation has cleared a Germany-sized tract of land from the world’s biggest rainforest and will host the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June.

“This shows crime in agriculture pays,” Furtado said. “It undermines farmers who were careful to comply with the law and replanted what they were told to.”

The bill, which was first passed by the lower house in May and then the Senate in December, forgives some farmers for felling forests in protected areas before July 2008, Furtado said.

Brazil is the world’s second most-forested country after Russia with 521.7 million hectares of woodland covering 61 percent of its total area, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said on its website.

About 34.7 million hectares of Amazonian rainforest were cleared between 1990 and 2010, which is about the size of Germany, according to the National Institute for Space Research.

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