Behind the Amazon rainforest fires, the world's appetite for cattle and soy

Fire in Porto Velho, in the Amazon basin

Fire in Porto Velho, in the Amazon basin

Beef and transgenic soy, avidly bought around the world are the agricultural activities that affect the Amazon rainforest and, according to all researchers, explain the recent dramatic increase in fires in the region.

"Extensive ranching is the main driver of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. A little over 65% of deforested land in the Amazonia is currently occupied by pastures," says Romulo Batista, a researcher at Greenpeace.

Brazil is the world's largest exporter of bovine meet. Its beef exports reached a record of 1.64 million tons in 2018 (source: Meat Export Industries Association in Brazil). The main markets are China, followed by Egypt and the European Union.

Behind this first place, just over twenty years of growth, more than spectacular. Between 1997 and 2016, for example, the country increased their beef exports by 10 times (both in weight and value). The market is dominated by three giants: JBS, Minerva and Marfrig.

Agricultural activities are responsible for about 6.5% of the deforested area. Already the world's largest soybean exporter ahead of the United States, Brazil reached a record level of exports in 2018, with 83.6 million tons, 22.6% more than in 2017, according to the Ministry of Economy.

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