• Business Business

Experts warn new trade deal could trigger catastrophic chain of events in Amazon Rainforest: 'May single-handedly shift the Amazon'

A study from 2021 found that deforestation had already made the Amazon produce more polluting gases than it could absorb.

A study from 2021 found that deforestation had already made the Amazon produce more polluting gases than it could absorb.

Photo Credit: iStock

The largest meat producer in the world and Brazil's president made a deal with China that will see the company expand its cattle, risking the future of the Amazon rainforest. 

When Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office last year, he pledged to end deforestation in the Amazon by 2030. In the first six months of his term, deforestation fell by 34%, according to the Associated Press. 

Plant Based News reported that Lula's deal with meat processor JBS and China could break that promise and see the Amazon become a net emitter of toxic gases instead of a net absorber, meaning it would create more polluting gases than it absorbs. 

What's happening?

During the presidency of Lula's predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, deforestation rates rose, and cattle ranching was the leading cause. JBS is connected to more than 100,000 hectares or over 247,000 acres of land clearance, per the news outlet. 

The environmental group Mighty Earth ranked the company as one of the worst meat companies for deforestation in the Amazon. JBS doesn't even know if the cattle are on deforested land because they don't track the movements of all its cattle until the final location, according to Plant Based News. 

JBS plans to double its beef production to 4,400 cows at meat plants visited by the president in April — and to invest about $29 million, per the news outlet. The deal will see meat from more than 2.3 million cows exported to China annually, more than 1.8 million more than the previous capacity in the Mato Grosso do Sul state facilities.

Environmental scientist Nicholas Carter wrote on LinkedIn that the deal will "ultimately [impact] critical biodiversity areas and Indigenous communities — and may single-handedly shift the Amazon from a net sink to a net emitter of planet-warming emissions."

Why is Amazon deforestation concerning?

A study from 2021 found that deforestation had already made the Amazon produce more polluting gases than it could absorb in certain areas. Wildfires in certain sections have contributed 1.1 billion tons of toxic gases more than they absorb, Plant Based News reported

Ane Alencar, science director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, and Dr. Adriane Esquivel Muelbert, lecturer in global forest ecology at the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, wrote an opinion article in the Guardian explaining that the only way to return the Amazon to its natural balance is to "reduce forest loss by deforestation and fires, and invest in massive landscape restoration."

The expansion of JBS' cattle ranching is expected to worsen the situation. 

According to the World Resources Institute and the University of Maryland, in 2023, 14,200 square miles of previously undisturbed global rainforests were cleared, per the Guardian. That's almost the size of Switzerland. Most of this is because of agricultural expansion. 

According to the World Wildlife Fund, people worldwide and locally depend on the rainforest for water, food, wood, and medicines. It also plays a vital role in controlling rising temperatures by storing 150 to 200 billion tons of carbon.

What's being done about Amazon deforestation?

While Brazil's president is making a deal that could increase deforestation, Marina Silva, the country's environmental minister, is working to protect the rainforest. She also held her position during Lula's previous presidency, and her plan is credited with reducing deforestation by 83% from 2004 to 2012. 

You can also change how you hold companies accountable by supporting businesses with eco-friendly practices, all while voting for pro-climate candidates.

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider