'Soy King' says Amazon deforestation could help solve global food crisis
April 28, 2008
In comments published Friday, the Mato Grosso governor defended the recent surge in Amazon deforestation.
"With the worsening of the global food crisis, the time is coming when it will be inevitable to discuss whether we preserve the environment or produce more food. There is no way to produce more food without occupying more land and taking down more trees," Maggi told Folha de Sao Paulo. "In this moment of crisis, the world needs to understand that the country has space to raise its production."
Known as the "King of Soy" for his extensive soy holdings and long a champion of agricultural development of the Amazon, Maggi has often found himself at odds with environmentalists. In 2005 Greenpeace awarded the governor the "Golden Chainsaw award" for being "the Brazilian person who most contributed to Amazon destruction."
More recently Maggi was criticized for climbing deforestation in Mato Grosso. Brazilian satellite data released earlier this year showed a marked rise in burning and forest clearing in Mato Grosso and neighboring Pará — states at the heart of Brazil's agricultural frontier — in the second half of 2007. The increase has been attributed to rising commodity prices which create incentives for converting forest into agricultural land.
Still, Brazilian government officials maintain that agricultural expansion need not come at the expense of the Amazon rainforest. In January Brazilian Agriculture Minister Reinhold Stephanes told Reuters that outside the Amazon, Brazil has 100 million hectares of land available for cultivation, including 50 million hectares of degraded pasture land and 50 million hectares of cerrado, a grassland ecosystem bordering the Amazon rainforest.