Thursday, September 17, 2009



New bill will make indigenous lands - including the Amazon, Pantanal, and Upper Paraguay River Basin regions - off-limits for sugarcane industry expansion

BRASILIA (September 17, 2009) – In an unprecedented initiative, Brazil today proposed a new bill of law that will restrict the lands permissible for sugarcane farming and processing. If passed, the bill sent today to the National Congress by President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva will prohibit the construction or expansion of sugarcane farms and production plants in any area of native vegetation, or in the Amazon, Pantanal (Brazilian Wetlands) or Upper Paraguay River Basin regions. Coupled with the areas not suitable for sugarcane farming, the bill would effectively make 92.5% of Brazil’s national territory off-limits for sugarcane farming and processing. In addition to the sugarcane zoning mandates, the new bill includes a measure to end the practice of crop burning by 2017 in all areas suitable for mechanized harvesting.

“Environmental preservation is a top priority of the Brazilian government,” said Celso Manzato, chief of the Environment unit of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). “Sugarcane is an integral crop for Brazil’s domestic food supply, renewable energy market, and our national exports, and therefore there is great demand for growth. These measures have been proposed to ensure that sustainable development models are in place to promote the responsible development of this industry.”

Brazil’s sugarcane harvests are used to produce food products as well as sugarcane-based ethanol, a biofuel alternative to gasoline. The proposal is timely, given that ethanol consumption surpassed that of gasoline in light vehicles in Brazil this year. Brazil has the largest fleet of flex-fuel cars in the world. Brazil is also currently the world’s largest producer and exporter of sugarcane, using only 1% of its national land area.

The newly proposed bill is based upon the findings of the National Agro-Ecological Zoning for Sugarcane (ZAE Cana) study, which defined lands suitable for sugarcane production based on environmental, economic and social criteria. ZAE Cana is the largest crop survey in Brazil’s history and the first ever to incorporate economic and social considerations into its proposed model for the sustainable development of the industry.

The ZAE Cana proposal addresses the need to regulate the expansion of sugarcane production in light of the growing global demand for food and biofuels. This proposal supports Brazil’s goal to foster sustainable economic development and preserve its indigenous lands, its biodiversity, and its natural resources.

Protected Lands
The new bill would restrict the expansion of sugarcane production plants to regions that meet the following criteria: areas that do not require full irrigation, thus saving resources such as water and energy; and areas with slopes less than 12%, allowing for mechanized harvesting and preventing producers’ clearance of ground by fire. In addition, credit extension policies will favor expansion into underused or degraded pasture land.

These rules are not applicable to industrial facilities already in operation.

These criteria leave 64 million total hectares eligible for sugarcane planting, equivalent to 7.5% of the national land area. Sugarcane crops currently occupy an area of 8.89 million hectares (2008 crop year).

Respect to Food Security
The proposed Bill of Law empowers the Ministry of Agriculture to direct the expansion of sugarcane production in order to prevent any risk to food production or food security.

Eradication of Ground Burning
In addition to regulating future sugarcane expansion, the federal government is proposing an end to burnings in existing production areas. The eradication will be enforced according to a transition schedule that ends burning by 2017 in 100% of areas suitable for mechanized harvesting. This measure will allow for the reduction of greenhouse gases by six million tons of CO2 equivalent.

The ZAE Cana will be presented as part of Brazil’s platform to curb global climate change and promote environmentally sustainable development at the United Nations’ 15th Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009.


For More Information (in Portuguese) about ZAE Cana please visit:

About SECOM:
The Secretariat for Social Communication (SECOM) of the Presidency of Brazil is responsible for coordinating the Public Relations activities for the government of Brazil.

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