Brazilian code seen as aiding environmental protection

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The new Brazilian Forest Code guarantees greater legal certainty for Brazil's food production and continues to be one of the most stringent environmental laws in the world when supplemented by the federal law which President Dilma Rouseff sanctioned last week.

This contention comes from the president of the Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil (CNA), Brazilian Senator Katia Abreu, who underscored another advance of the new law—it ended the hegemony of environmental NGOs on the theme of the environment. "Never again will society and its representatives in (Brazilian) congress be excluded from this debate," she said.

For her, the other big news is that, from here forward, authorized restrictions will be applied to the imports of agricultural and forestry products from countries that do not comply with environmental laws similar to those adopted in Brazil.

"Brazil is the only country in the world that produces its food in less than one third of its territory—27 percent. It is also the only nation to maintain no less than 61 percent of its biomes untouched", said the president of the CNA. She recalls that the term ‘legal reserve’—the mandated area maintained as an environmental reserve within farms, whose size depends on the biomes (the distinctive plant and animal groups) where it is located—only exists in the Brazilian legislation. The same is true of the permanent preservation areas (APPs), to be held on the river's banks, which also does not exist in other countries. From now on, however, Brazil is authorized to demand the same requirements for those countries that sell food or forest products.

Abreu said Brazilian farmers, through CNA, always advocated the maintenance of permanent preservation areas by acknowledging their fundamental importance for ensuring the quality of water. "At the recent Rio +20 Summit and in other multilateral forums, we proposed that the APPs be adopted worldwide.  Why should only the rivers here be defended if the water issue is global?”, she asked.

The New Code maintains the same levels of "legal reserve" on farms, increasing the economic use of rural property, without damage to environmental preservation. It maintains, for example, the possibility of recovery of the area of "legal reserve" with commercial forestry species, provided they are interspersed with native species, in order to prevent mono-culture.

According to Abreu, this was all possible because the new law creating the Program for the Environment (PRAs) "opens up the possibility for setting clear standards for the environmental regularization of rural properties in Brazil, clarifying the obligations and deadlines of the producer." For her, the Rural Environmental Registry (CRA), also created by the new code, represents another breakthrough as it allows an effective control of land use in the country, "providing the necessary conditions for effective and efficient land management."       

For Abreu, these two instruments created by the Brazilian environmental legislation "ended the industry of fines and punitive legislation, replacing them with an educational law that has environmental gains." From now on, the farmer who received fines before July 22, 2008 may enroll in the PRA, pledging to recover the environmental damage for which he received the penalty. The president of CNA said "this is not amnesty because the penalty is removed only after verification that the recovery was made for the area."

The new Forest Code allows the continuation of agricultural activities in areas already in production before July 22, 2008, provided that the producer recovers vegetation along the river or watercourse, according to the size of the property and the width of the river. Another innovation is the creation of the Environmental Reserve Quota (CRA), an instrument of financial benefit to the producer who has an area of native vegetation greater than that required by law. To stimulate preservation, a program of financial incentives for the recovery of deforested areas is also expected to be created.

The - CNA - represents more than 5 million farmers in the country.

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