Brazil is preparing to feed the world as the population rapidly rises around the globe in the next 30 years. Environmental activists better not get in the way of advancement in farming and ranching, or they might not live to protest another day.

An activist fighting to protect the Amazon rain forest from loggers was shot and killed with his wife, Brazilian authorities said this week. The Associated Press reported the rubber tapper and his wife were ambushed by gunmen in the jungle state of Para in northern Brazil. No arrests had been made at last report, but that was to be expected based on the past.  

The Catholic Land Pastoral, a watchdog group that tracks violence against environmental activists, said more than 1,150 activists, small farmers, judges, priests and other rural workers have been killed in disputes over preserving land since the 1988 murder of Brazil's most well-known rain forest protector Chico Mendes. Most killings have not been vigorously investigated because of the power of loggers, ranchers and farmers who have defied Brazilian law to illegally clear forest for crop use and pasture land.

There is a view of the Amazon jungle being an area governed similar to the wild, wild west of the U.S.’s early 1800’s. And it is not disputed by many familiar with the country willing to speak on the record. But government officials are only talking about the agricultural production potential and return on investment in agricultural land, where ever it might be.

The Associated Press reported Brazil's lower house passed legislation last week to loosen restrictions on how small farmers use their land in the Amazon forest, allowing those with small holdings to work land closer to riverbanks and to use hilltops. Legislative leaders dropped a provision that environmentalists feared most, which would have removed most limits on destroying trees for small farmers and ranchers. But the environmentalists claim that the approved changes will lead to flooding, silty rivers, and erosion in the rain forest, an area the size of the continental U.S. west of the Mississippi River.     

How far will Brazil will go to promote Brazilian agricultural development, including land clearing and allowing proven or unproven biotechnology crop production? The government sees its economic growth based on agriculture as necessary to keep the country’s economy on track as the leader in South America.     

Brazil is the main country in the world ready to meet the predicted global shortfall in food commodities by embracing agricultural technology, said the head of Brazil’s first credit rating agency at the Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis, a worldwide gathering of agricultural science and business leaders this week.

Brazil will easily be able to supply the increase in world demand for meat protein of beef, said Paulo Rabello de Castro, chairman and principal partner of SR Rating, Brazil’s first credit rating agency, as well as managing partner of RC Consultores. 

As rising prices and market limitations elsewhere challenge meat supplies worldwide, “Brazil alone would be able to make up for this (demand). It is the country most ready to help with the world need,” Rabello de Castro said.

Brazil is already one of the world’s largest producers of sugarcane, soybeans, corn, ethanol, coffee, orange juice and beef. Rabello de Castro said technology has played a major role in the growth of the nation’s agricultural industry, especially for more head of cattle to occupy fewer hectares of land.

He encouraged the audience of agricultural scientists and entrepreneurs at the Ag Innovation Showcase to bring their technology to Brazil to help the country overcome production hurdles.

He did admit that the sheer size of the nation and its underdeveloped infrastructure makes transport to market costly.  Other issues include high input prices such as gasoline, extremely high and punitive taxes, and production sustainability issues. All of these he expects to be overcome with technology. If an eventual fall of commodity prices hits world markets, then technology advancement will be hard to fund, he agreed.

“All of these challenges call for technological answers from ag tech specialists,” Rabello de Castro said. “This is a big market and big opportunity.”