Brazil Profile


Forest loss in Brazil was responsible for a quarter of all the forests lost worldwide between 1990 and 2010 (FAO 2010), and a third of all tropical forests lost between 2000 and 2012 (Hansen et al. 2013). Historically, this deforestation occurred along the “Arc of Deforestation” in Brazil’s Amazon frontier across the three states of Pará, Mato Grosso, and Rondônia (INPE 2002). Here, infrastructure development spurred the construction of new roads, opening up frontier forests to unplanned land conversion and increased human migration and settlement.

Since 2004, Brazil has achieved a dramatic reduction in the deforestation rate, which had declined by 70 percent by 2013 compared with the 1996 to 2005 average (Nepstad et al. 2014). Most of this decline has been attributed to government actions, including the creation of large new areas of protected areas and indigenous reserves, and a range of innovative policy measures designed to address illegal deforestation (Arima et al. 2014; Nepstad et al. 2014). Voluntary moratoria on deforestation by soy and beef producers—prompted by NGO campaigns, international markets, national slaughterhouses, supermarkets, and public prosecutors—have also played a part (see Sections regarding Soy and Beef). However, despite this decrease, the areas lost each year still represent a large proportion of the global figure, and in recent years the rate of progress has slowed and possibly reversed. In the cerrado (now the principal location of Brazil’s forest loss), deforestation has been climbing steadily since 2009, while deforestation in the Amazon has also been rising again since 2013 (Soares-Filho et al. 2014; Mongabay 2016) —although it remains well below the historic highs experienced between 1996 and 2008.

Forest Conversion for Commercial Agriculture and Associated Exports

While many studies have stated the overwhelming importance of commercial agriculture as a driver of deforestation in Brazil, especially for cattle and soybean production, only a few provide hard data on the precise area (see Box 1) (Barona et al. 2010; Fearnside 1996; Margulis 2004). This is complicated by the fact that land is often cleared first for cattle production, and then planted with agricultural crops, soy in particular, and that some land deforested for agriculture is later abandoned and reverts to secondary forest or scrub. Though most research has examined these drivers in relation to the Brazilian Amazon, there is also strong evidence that agriculture is equally important in driving the deforestation of the Brazilian cerrado. The Government of Brazil’s own plan for management of the cerrado, for instance, recognizes that there has been a strong correlation between an increased area of soy planting and increased deforestation (Ministério do Meio Ambiente 2010). Based on a review of available evidence, one study concluded that in total, 98 percent of Brazilian deforestation during 1995 to 2005 could be attributed to cattle and soy (see Box 1 for details). Since 2006, when domestic soy producers declared a voluntary moratorium on deforestation in the Amazon region, the deforestation rate for soy in the Amazon has dropped to near zero. However, the soy moratorium did not apply to deforestation in other Brazilian forest biomes, and cattle-related deforestation has continued nationwide, albeit at a slower rate since the adoption of a similar voluntary moratorium for beef in 2009 (Walker et al. 2013). While the latter agreement is seen as a partial victory, it also does not encompass ranching in other forest biomes, and also includes key loopholes, the most important being that it does not prevent calves being raised on illegally cleared land, sold on to fattening ranches on legal land and then sold on to the slaughterhouses (Gibbs and Barreto, 2015)

While soy and beef are by far the most important commercial agricultural products driving deforestation in Brazil, Brazil is also the world’s largest producer of sugarcane and has the third largest area of monoculture timber plantations in the world, with 6.5 Mha planted by 2012 (Indufor 2012). While most of these plantations were established on non-forested land, some directly replaced forest, while others may follow cattle production that initially led to the forest clearance (de Sà et al. 2013; Lang 2008). Most timber plantations for pulp occur in the southwest region of Brazil and there are very few in the Amazon region.

Unlike many other tropical countries, the majority of the commodities associated with deforestation in Brazil are consumed locally. Exports are still important, however. Karstensen et al. (2013) found that 15 percent of carbon emissions associated with beef deforestation and 50 percent associated with soy deforestation resulted from products that were exported. In total, the study found that around 30 percent of total carbon emissions from deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon in the decade to 2010 were related to exports. The authors concluded that “in recent years, there is a positive correlation between high deforestation emissions and high proportions of production exported; giving additional support to the hypothesis that deforestation is increasingly connected to international trade.” The authors note that because global drivers contribute to Brazil’s deforestation, “they should also be seen as part of the solution,” and suggest that unless global agro-commodity demand is tackled through regulation at various points in the supply chain, it is likely that deforestation rates in Brazil will begin to climb, as was indeed the case in 2013.

As recently as the 1990s, Brazil was a net importer of beef (MercoPress 2013). By 2004, it had become the world’s largest exporter.17 A few years ago, Brazil was exporting more than a quarter of its beef production, but exports have declined steadily since 2007 as a proportion of production (Bonsall 2012), and in 2012, only 17 percent was exported.18 In contrast to beef, however, most of Brazil’s bovine leather is exported.19 Major markets include the EU and China.20 In the past, the EU was the largest importer of Brazilian beef, but this changed in the mid-2000s and by 2013, Russia, China, and the Middle East were the biggest export markets.

Though Brazil only exports a minority of the beef it produces, it exports 75 percent of its soy production.22 In 2012, the largest market for Brazilian soy exports was China, taking 48 percent of total exports; the second largest market was the EU, with 31 percent. One-third of Brazil’s timber plantation area is used for pulp production, and around two-thirds of this pulp is exported. In 2012, 46 percent of this pulp was exported to Europe, 26 percent to China, and 19 percent to North America (BRACELPA 2014).

There is no official data on the proportion of Brazil’s tropical timber production and exports being sourced from conversion of forests. Grieg-Gran et al. (2007) estimate volumes of tropical forest conversion timber in Brazil at between 4.7 million m3 and 14.7 million m3 in 2004, compared with total production that year of 24.5 million m3, suggesting that it represents between 19 and 60 percent of production. However, their analysis also concludes that much forest clearance for agriculture involves little commercial harvesting. For this study, the lowest end of the implied range (19 percent) is therefore assumed for tropical wood exports.

BOX 1: Summaries of Studies Estimating Forest Loss due to Cattle and Agricultural Production

  1. Based on a review of available evidence, Grieg-Gran et al. (2007) estimate that 17.1 of the 22.4 Mha of forest lost (76 percent) in the Brazilian Amazon were lost for cattle pasture between 1995 and 2005. A further 3.9 Mha (17 percent) were initially converted for soy production. In the Brazilian cerrado, at least 3.9 Mha had been lost for cattle farming and a further 3.3 Mha to soy production. In total, the authors estimate that 98 percent of deforestation in Brazil has been driven by ranching and soy plantations (Grieg-Gran et al. 2007).
  2. Morton et al. (2006) used field surveys and satellite imagery to assess the fate of large (> 25ha) plots of deforested land in Mato Grosso state (the most important in Brazil for deforestation) during 2001-2004, and found that in 2002, 78 percent of the deforested area was converted to cattle pasture and 13 percent to cropland (a combined total of 91 percent), while in 2003 the figures were 66 percent and 23 percent (a combined total of 89 percent).
  3. The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) (2011), using satellite imagery, found that of the cumulative area deforested in the Brazilian “Legal Amazon” to 2007, 63 percent was being used as cattle pasture in 2008 and 5 percent for crops. A further 10 percent was classified as “mosaic of occupation” or “no data” and could also have been pasture or crops, while most of the remainder (21 percent) was classed as “secondary vegetation” and may have originally been cleared for pasture or crops (INPE 2011a).
  4. Karstensen et al. (2013) state that the share of land use in the year of deforestation in most Brazilian states is 34.7 percent for cropland and 65.3 percent for pastures (i.e., that 100 percent of initial deforestation is for agriculture), but that in subsequent years much of the cropland reverts to secondary forest.

Illegalities in Conversion

In Brazil the most common illegalities relating to conversion of forests are fraudulent land titles and the failure to retain the legally required minimum percentage of natural forest on each property (known as “legal reserves” under Brazilian law) (see Box 2). Other regulatory breaches, such as converting forests outside legal boundaries (including incursions into protected areas), and the clearing of other forest conservation zones within properties (such as streamside buffers) are also common. While the Brazilian government has been successful in recent years in reducing illegal deforestation (see Box 3), the problem continues, and much of the legacy of past illegal deforestation has yet to be effectively addressed.

The estimate of illegality used in this study for Brazil (68 to 90 percent) is based solely on breaches of legal reserves, and is therefore likely an underestimate of overall levels of non-compliance, because it assumes that conversion that is in compliance with legal reserve requirements is legal in all other respects. Encroachments beyond property boundaries or breaches of other environmental protection measures within properties, such as failures to protect streamside buffers and steep slopes, are known to be common but could not be considered because of a lack of quantitative data. The estimate used in the analysis also does not capture the extent to which deforestation that was in compliance with legal reserve limits may nevertheless have occurred on properties where ownership rights were obtained illegally.

On the other hand, the general proviso that the measure of illegality used in the analysis does not consider any post-hoc process of “legalization” is of particular importance to Brazil, given the recent “amnesty” covering large areas of illegal deforestation that occurred prior to 2008 (see Box 3). In addition, the illegality percentage for the Brazilian Amazon applied in the analysis in this report is based on evidence that only extends to 2009, and it is likely that a lower proportion of deforestation since that date has been illegal. However, given that the years to 2009 account for 90 percent of Amazon deforestation during the reference period (2000 to 2012), any variation in the illegality rate since will make little difference to the overall total. Similarly, with regard to the commodity analysis , it is especially important to bear in mind that this analysis considers all production and trade of relevant commodities to be associated with illegality regardless of when the deforestation took place, or whether it has since been ”legalized.” Though most relevant Brazilian commodities may still be coming from land which was illegally deforested, the proportion of “new” production (from land cleared only recently) that is illegal will almost certainly be lower.


BOX 2: Two Common Types of Illegalities Associated with Forest Clearing for Agriculture and Livestock

  1. Ownership rights: Organized land grabbers and squatters have cleared forest areas with impunity, and then taken advantage of various government programs granting land titles after the fact to validate illegal seizures of public lands. This land-grabbing has been a key part of the process of forest conversion to cattle pasture. The World Bank reports that “the high profits to be obtained from cattle ranching are often due to the originally illegal appropriation of land which is camouflaged in subsequent financial returns” (Margulis 2004). Fraudulent title deeds and corruption are common tools in the illegal appropriation of land. The Brazilian government stated in 2009 that clear ownership records existed for less than 4 percent of the land in private hands in the Brazilian Amazon (Barrioneuvo 2009). The Brazilian authorities continue to encourage illegal landgrabbing by allowing such land to be “regularized” through payments that are below market rates. Efforts by the Brazilian government to address past illegalities in land titling and prevent future land-grabbing have been much less successful than those relating to other types of illegalities related to forest conversion (Barreto and da Silva 2013).
  2. Legal reserves: All properties are legally required to maintain a minimum of natural vegetation within each property (the “legal reserve”). This minimum has varied over time and is higher in the Brazilian Amazon than elsewhere in Brazil. Since 1997, the legal reserve in the Amazon has been 80 percent; prior to that it was 50 percent. In the cerrado, it is 35 percent. It has been estimated that 90 percent of forest clearance in Mato Grosso state between 2001 and 2009 was in excess of the legal reserve (Stickler et al. 2013; see main text for additional details). A 2016 study found that in an area of 45 million hectares in the Cerrado, agricultural land had doubled from 1.3 million hectares in 2003 to 2.5 million hectares in 2013, with nearly three-quarters of this expansion occurring at the expense of local vegetation. (Spera et. al 2016)

General Quantitative Estimates of Illegality

One recent study (Soares-Filho et al. 2014) estimated that a cumulative area of forest larger than California (between 44 and 56 Mha) had been illegally cleared on private farm properties in Brazil up to 2011, in contravention of the Forest Code. This figure includes both breaches of legal reserves and the additional requirement to protect conservation forests along the banks of rivers. Earlier studies (Sparovek et al. 2010; Sparovek et al. 2012), using a different methodology and including breaches of other Forest Code requirements (such as protection of natural vegetation on steep slopes, areas of high elevation, and hilltops), came up with an even higher estimate of 87 Mha of natural vegetation cleared in contravention of the Forest Code.

These national-level studies used proxy data and modelling, and did not seek to directly measure the areas of deforestation within individual properties that were non-compliant with the Forest Code, or the proportion this represented of the total area deforested within such properties. These studies also did not clearly discriminate between forest and non-forest “natural vegetation” when considering the areas cleared illegally, or seek to assess levels of compliance during different time periods.

Stickler et al. (2013) sought to overcome these limitations through a more direct analysis of Forest Code compliance, which examined such compliance between 1997 and 2009 in the state of Mato Grosso, which was responsible for 40 percent of all deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between 1996 and 2005. Their study found that between 2001 and 2009, 90 percent “of this clearing was illegal” on the basis of compliance with the legal reserve requirement alone. Supplementary findings to the study using alternative forest cover data suggest a similar, though slightly lower, proportion of illegality (87 percent) between 2000 and 2005.
Additional evidence from Greenpeace (2009a), based on a comparison of satellite imagery with permits for deforestation obtained from government agencies, suggests that these findings are typical for the broader Brazilian Amazon, estimating that 90 percent of the deforestation from July 2006 to July 2007 was illegal. This represented a substantial increase compared to 2004, when a similar analysis found that only 70 percent of conversion was illegal (Greenpeace 2009a).

The Government Response

Amendments to Brazil’s Forest Code, signed by the former President in 2012, granted amnesty for violations of legal reserve limits prior to 2008. Previously, all areas illegally deforested were required to be fully restored. Now, small farms less than 400 ha are not required to conduct any restoration, while larger farms must restore only a portion, and can choose to do so with non-native species or through the purchase of deforestation rights from other compliant landowners, once the non-compliant landowner has properly registered their property with the State and obtained the required environmental certification. It has been estimated that when combined, the various amendments to the Forest Code will forgive 23 to 36 Mha of illegal land clearance that took place prior to 2008 (between 48 percent and 64 percent of the total area of such illegal clearance up to 2011) (Soares-Filho et al. 2014). There is a risk that such a blanket amnesty could encourage future illegality, by leading to the “perception that illegal deforesters are unlikely to be prosecuted and may even be exonerated in future law reforms” (ibid.) or shift the production to smaller farms that are exempt from mandated conservation measures. This said, Stickler et al. (2013) conclude that whatever emerges from the Forest Code must be accompanied by an effective set of options for forestland owners to come into compliance, coupled with incentives that cover, at least in part, their opportunity costs for providing public environmental benefits.

In addition to amending the Forest Code to enable this amnesty, the Brazilian government has taken a number of other steps to try to tackle illegal deforestation in the Amazon (see Box 3). Some of the most important steps (such as the rural environmental registry, CAR, and other amendments to the Forest Code) have not yet been fully implemented, however, and the problem remains widespread. In November 2013, Brazil’s environment minister attributed a 28 percent rise in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon over the previous year to increased illegal ranching and soybean production in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará, and criticized those state authorities for failing to effectively tackle illegal forest conversion (AFP 2013). The minister promised action against those responsible, which she described as “mafias” involving both land-grabbers and corrupt officials, and stated that there were almost 4,000 ongoing police investigations into illegal conversion (Rocha 2013).

At the Paris climate summit in 2015, Brazil pledged to end illegal deforestation by 2030, while the state of Mato Grosso committed to do the same by 2020. However, recent developments under the new President Michael Temer and new Minister of Agriculture (soy billionaire Blairo Maggi) call into question whether this might be achieved by a weakening of laws rather than an increase in enforcement. The obligation on farmers to register on the CAR and restore illegally deforested areas has twice been delayed, and there are proposals on the table which would see a weakening of environmental licensing requirements, weakening of the protected area network and limits on recognition of indigenous lands (Mongabay 2016).

Evidence Specific to Cattle Ranching

e period 2008 to 2009, Greenpeace (2009a) examined 28 cattle ranches in Mato Grosso and Pará, covering approximately 0.5 Mha. All 28 ranches had cleared more than the legal maximum area of forest. Indeed, most (64 percent) had cleared more than 70 percent, and many (36 percent) had cleared more than 90 percent. Between them, the 28 ranches had illegally converted more than 150,000 ha, 150 percent more than the legally permissible area. In total, more than 70 percent of the pasture within the 28 ranches was illegally deforested.24 The same study also documented cases of illegal forest conversion for cattle pasture in protected areas and indigenous lands (see Case Study below).

In October 2009, four of Brazil’s largest meat processing companies (JBS, Bertin—later purchased by JBS— Marfrig, and Minerva) signed a public agreement (known as the G4 Cattle Agreement) to no longer purchase cattle from ranches within the Amazon biome where deforestation had occurred after the date of the agreement, unless those companies could prove compliance with land tenure and environmental legislation (Walker et al. 2013). The companies also agreed to ban the purchase of cattle from ranches that deforested prior to the agreement, where these ranches had been accused by government agencies of invading indigenous lands, “embargoed” by IBAMA, or fined by state or federal authorities for invading protected areas. Such ranches could only be accepted as suppliers if they could prove that fines had been paid, environmental damages had been repaired, and that they were now in full legal compliance. The buyers also committed to refusing cattle from ranches accused by relevant government agencies of land-grabbing, until such accusations were dropped. In the longer term, the companies agreed that they would ensure all suppliers had the necessary environmental permits within two years, and would only accept suppliers who could prove they were in possession of legal land titles within five years. All of this was to be ensured through the establishment of supply chain tracking systems.

Case Study: Cattle Ranching in Marabá, Pará, Brazil

In March 2007, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) approved a loan to Brazilian company Bertín for the expansion of a slaughterhouse in Marabá, Pará.

Prior to the investment, the IFC’s own summary of the proposed investment admitted that “numerous farmers in Bertín’s supply chain have no legal title to land or have fraudulent documentation” (IFC 2006). For this reason, the loan included conditions meant to minimize the impact of the new facility on surrounding forests and to ensure it did not take cattle from illegally deforested land.

However, Greenpeace researched six ranches supplying cattle to the slaughterhouse after the loan was approved, and found all had deforested far more than the “legal reserve” maximum of 20 percent of the land under their control. All had deforested at least 60 percent, and two had cleared more than 90 percent. The slaughterhouse also sourced cattle indirectly from ranches that had been raided by IBAMA and found to be involved in illegal deforestation. The deforestation rate within the surrounding area was estimated to have increased by 40 percent since the loan was agreed. Greenpeace has also documented cattle from an illegal ranch inside an indigenous Indian forest reserve being supplied to a separate Bertín slaughterhouse in Tucuma (Greenpeace 2009a).

Though it was an impressive achievement, the G4 Agreement stopped well short of preventing all purchasing of cattle from land which was illegally deforested prior to 2009. First, though it encompassed the largest four companies in the industry, the voluntary deal only covered one-third of the total cattle slaughtering in the Amazon (Walker et al. 2013) and allowed purchases to continue if the farm was “legalized” through payment of fines or other measures. Such purchases could only be prevented where the illegal deforestation was detected by government agencies (and the relevant areas thereby “embargoed”). The agreement also did not apply to deforestation outside the Amazon biome, such as in Brazil’s cerrado forests.

Even for those illegalities that were captured, there is evidence of problems with implementation of the agreement. In June 2012, Greenpeace published a review of the effectiveness of the G4 Agreement in which it claimed to have evidence showing that the largest of the companies involved (JBS) was continuing to buy from farms deforesting illegally and occupying indigenous lands (Greenpeace 2012a). Greenpeace claimed that two farms that supplied JBS up to November 2011 were “embargoed” by IBAMA for illegal deforestation as late as December 2011, and that this demonstrated that the company’s supply chain system was failing to determine whether or not suppliers were engaged in illegal deforestation. Greenpeace also claims that JBS failed to properly monitor its indirect suppliers (Greenpeace 2012b). JBS has challenged Greenpeace’s assertions (Mongabay 2012b).

Meanwhile, illegal deforestation for beef production has continued. In April 2013, federal and state authorities sued 26 slaughterhouses in the states of Amazonas, Mato Grosso, and Rondônia for buying cattle from farms involved in illegal deforestation. The fines issued total $280 million. One of Brazil’s largest slaughterhouse firms, BR Foods (not among those which signed the G4 Agreement), was among those cited. According to the Federal Public Ministry, it had bought cattle from six farms in areas embargoed by IBAMA (Greenpeace 2013c).

BOX 3: Actions to Address Illegal Deforestation Taken by the Brazilian Government

Since 2004, the Brazilian government has taken a number of steps to to reduce deforestation. These actions have been credited as the key drivers behind the dramatic 70 percent decline in deforestation seen in the country in the years 2004-2012 (Nepstad et al. 2014). While the most effective government action during 2004-2006 was a massive increase in the area of protected forest (including indigenous reserves) (Soares-Filho et al. 2010), “command and control” actions specifically targeted at illegal deforestation have been found to have been particularly important from 2008 onwards, when the most substantial declines in deforestation were seen (Arima et al. 2014). Steps taken by the government that were specifically targeted at illegal deforestation include:

  • 2004—“Plan for the Protection and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon” (PPCDAm) improved coordination between relevant enforcement agencies.
  • 2008—The Critical Counties Program prohibited government agencies from providing loans to properties on Brazil’s environmental agency (IBAMA)’s list of “embargoed” properties found to have cleared forest illegally, while an associated resolution of the Brazilian Central Bank required documentation proving compliance with environmental regulations by farms in the Amazon biome as a condition for financing.
  • 2008—The federal prosecutor’s office (MPF) in Pará took civil action against 20 ranchers and 11 major meat packers, and recommended to major supermarkets and other buyers to halt purchases from them; the MPF then used the case as leverage to obtain important commitments from the meatpackers concerned.
  • 2009—The Rural Environmental Registry (Cadastro Ambiental Rural (CAR)) went into effect in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará. By requiring landholders to submit their property boundaries to the state environmental regulatory agency (SM), it increased capacity to enforce legal reserve requirements (though it did not assess legality of land tenure).
  • 2012—The new Forest Code required every state to establish a CAR and required individual properties to report their level of compliance with the legal reserve and plans for achieving compliance.
  • 2012—Issuance of the Plan of Prevention, Combat and Alternatives to Illegal Settlements Deforestation in the Amazon (also called the Green Settlements Program), seeking to reduce illegal deforestation in agrarian farm settlements.

Evidence Specific to Soy

is also evidence that much of the deforestation for soy production in the Amazon has also been illegal. For instance, an investigation in 2002 by the International Finance Corporation found that legal reserve requirements were not being met on soy farms covering two-thirds of the land owned by Grupo André Maggi (GAM), Brazil’s largest soy producer (Stickler et al. 2004). The head of GAM, Blairo Maggi, was elected governor of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state in 2002. Though Maggi oversaw a major reduction in deforestation in Mato Grosso after 2004, most existing soy plantations remained illegal (in that the land on which they were growing had been cleared illegally, and this had not been addressed through fines or other forms of restitution). In 2009, as governor, he offered an amnesty to soy farmers operating illegally in the state, giving them four years to achieve compliance with the Forest Code’s legal reserve limits (Perlroth 2009).

Breaches of the legal reserve requirement are not the only documented illegalities relating to soy deforestation in Brazil. According to the National Land Reform Institute, for example, millions of hectares of forested public land were fraudulently transferred to private individuals in Mato Grosso and subsequently exploited for soy production. Local governments have also built roads into forested areas to serve soy expansion without the required Environmental Impact Assessments (Greenpeace 2006).

In 2006, the largest soy producers in Brazil signed a voluntary moratorium on forest conversion for new plantations, which was extended indefinitely in 2016. While direct deforestation for soy in the Brazilian Amazon (both legal and illegal) has been almost eliminated (GTS Soy Task Force 2012), the moratorium only applies to the Amazon biome, which only represents 5 percent of the area of soy planting in Brazil. In the cerrado, which contains 60 percent of Brazil’s soy planting, there has been much less attention to the issue, and though information is sparse, there is evidence that much of the conversion of Brazil’s cerrado for soy is also illegal. Although 8 percent of the cerrado is officially designated for environmental protection, the Government of Brazil’s own studies have shown that more than 4 million m3 of protected cerrado forest was destroyed between 2002 and 2008 (Ministério do Meio Ambiente 2010). Even outside protected areas, the Forest Code requires that 35 percent of native vegetation in the cerrado is preserved, yet it is claimed that “few producers comply” with this requirement (ibid.).

Evidence Specific to Timber Plantations

is also evidence of illegalities regarding other major crops grown at the expense of forest in Brazil, though they have had less impact than the agro-commodities mentioned above, and have been studied far less. For example, Kröger (2012) interviewed activists and government officials and found the majority believed that pulp companies in Brazil had obtained land for plantations through illegal means, similar to the land grabbing that plantations and ranches have been accused of, outlined above (Kröger 2012).

In 2008, Veracel, which is responsible for around one-tenth of Brazil’s pulp production,26 was fined $12.5 million by a federal court for illegal deforestation of tropical forests from 1991 to 1993, and ordered to pull up almost 100,000 ha of eucalyptus plantation and replace it with natural forest (Federal Court in Eunápolis 2008).Veracel, which denies the allegations, lodged an appeal and the sentence has been suspended pending its conclusion. As of November 2013, the case had still not been resolved (Rainforest Alliance 2014). IBAMA has also fined Veracel for $136,000 (Lang 2008). Veracel is involved in numerous other disputes with local communities (who claim it has illegally developed on indigenous land) and other civil cases regarding environmental damage and tax evasion (SGS Qualifor 2012; Lerrer and Wilkinson 2012), and has been repeatedly found by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) auditors to be in breach of health and safety regulations in its treatment of workers (SGS Qualifor 2012). Veracel exports nearly all of its pulp (Lang 2008).

Two other large Brazilian pulp producers have also been involved in converting natural forests for timber plantations, Aracruz (now part of Fibria) and Suzano, and are alleged to have planted on lands which were previously the subject of illegal land grabs (Kröger 2012).



Calculated from forest area data for 1990 and 2010 in FAO 2010

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Barrionuevo, Alexei. 2009. “Brazil Aims to Prevent Land Grabs in Amazon.” The NewYork Times, December 26.

Barreto, Paulo, and Daniel Silva da Silva. 2013. “How Can One Develop the Rural Economy Without Deforesting the Amazon?” Imazon, Belém, Brazil.

Stephanie A. Spera, Gillian L. Galford, Michael T. Coe, Marcia N. Macedo, John F. Mustard, 2016 ”Land-use change affects water recycling in Brazil’s last agricultural frontier”, Global Change Biology, Volume 22, Issue 10, October 2016, Pages 3405–3413

Sparovek, Gerd, Göran Berndes, Alberto G.O.P. Baretto, and Israel L.F. Klug. 2012. “The Revision of the Brazilian Forest Act:
Increased Deforestation or a Historic Step towards Balancing Agricultural Development and Nature Conservation?”
Environmental Science & Policy 16: 65-72. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2011.10.008.

Sparovek, Gerd, Göran Berndes, Israel L. F. Klug, and Alberto G.O.P. Barretto. 2010. “Brazilian Agriculture and Environmental
Legislation: Status and Future Challenges.” Environmental Science and Technology 44 (16): 6046–6053. doi: 10.1021/

Stickler, Claudia M., Daniel C. Nepstad, Andrea A. Azevedo, and David G. McGrath. 2013. “Defending Public Interests in Private Lands: Compliance, Costs and Potential Environmental Consequences of the Brazilian Forest Code in Mato Grosso.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 368 (1619): 20120160doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0160.

Greenpeace. 2009a. “Slaughtering the Amazon.” Greenpeace, Amsterdam.

AFP. 2013. “Brazil Amazon Deforestation Rose 28% in Past Year: Official.” Agence France Press, November 15.

Rocha, Jan. 2013. “Brazil Blames Organised Crime for Rise in Deforestation.” Climate News Network, November 18.

IFC. 2006. Summary of Proposed Investment: Bertin Ltda. International Finance Corporation, Washington, DC. D454135327FAEA67852576BA000E2939.

Greenpeace. 2012b. “JBS Caught Red-Handed Again in Brazil.” Greenpeace News, June 6. blog/40812/ 2012b. ”Brazilian Beef Giant on Defensive on its Amazon Sourcing Practices.”, June 8.

Greenpeace. 2013c. “Brazilian Slaughterhouses Sued for Amazon Destruction.” Greenpeace News, April 18. http://www. blog/44817/


Soares-Filho, Britaldo, Paulo Moutinho, Daniel Nepstad, Anthony Anderson, Hermann Rodrigues, Ricardo Garcia, Laura Dietzsch, Frank Merry, Maria Bowman, Letícia Hissa, Rafaella Silvestrini, and Cláudio Maretti. 2010. “Role of Brazilian Amazon Protected Areas in Climate Change Mitigation.” PNAS 107 (24):10821-10826. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0913048107.

Stickler CM et al. 2004. “An Evaluation of International Finance Corporation Financing of Grupo André Maggi (Project No 113444) in the Soybean Sector: Environmental and Social Impact Considerations.” Quoted in Greenpeace, 2006, “Eating Up the Amazon,” Greenpeace, Amsterdam.

Perlroth, Nicole. 2009. “Tree Hugger.” Forbes, April 12.

Greenpeace. 2006. “Cargill—Eating up the Amazon.” Greenpeace, Amsterdam.

GTS Soy Task Force. 2012. “Soy Moratorium: Mapping and Monitoring Soybean in the Amazon Biome—5th Year.” http://www.

Ministério do Meio Ambiente (MMA). 2010. Plano de Ação para Prevenção e Controle do Desmatamento e das Queimadas no Cerrado, Revised versión.

Kröger, Markus. 2012. “The Expansion of Industrial Tree Plantations and Dispossession in Brazil.” Development and Change 43 (4): 947-973. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7660.2012.01787.x

Federal Court in Eunápolis. 2008. “Veracel é condenada a pagar R$ 20 milhões por desmatamento.” Press Statement, July 10. Quoted in FSC-Watch, 2008, “Millions of FSC Certified Trees to be Uprooted as Brazilian Court Condemns Veracel,” FSCWatch, July 14.

SGS Qualifor. 2012. Forest Management Certification Report: Veracel Celulose SA. Last modified February 23. http://fsc.force. com/servlet/servlet.FileDownload?file=00P40000009VffdEAC.

Lerrer, Debora, and John Wilkinson. 2012. “Impact of Restrictive Legislation and Popular Opposition Movements on Foreign Land Investments in Brazil: The Case of the Forestry and Pulp Paper Sector and Stora Enso.” Presented at the International Academic Conference on Land Grabbing II, Cornell University, Ithaca, October 17-19.




This summary was last updated in September 2016. For more recent information, please see news on Brazil here.