The love-hate relationship between farmers and nature

stuk redactie boer en natuur 8-6-2020

The Amazon forest is the world’s biggest rainforest. It covers a large part of South-America, and hundreds of thousands of plant species and animal species inhabit the forest. However, it is not sure for how long this will last. As many will know, there is a lot of deforestation in the Amazon woods. The main reasons for the cutting of the trees seems to make more space for agricultural firms. Regardless of whether it is a good development or not, it is interesting to look into the stakeholders and the surrounding ideas of the deforestation.

A major part of the logging occurs in Brazil, who’s president is an advocate of the deforestation. He is of het opinion that it is more important to use the area for agriculture than for it to remain a rainforest. From satellite images it appears that there is more deforestation than should be allowed, and that a large part of the deforestation is illegal. The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, would describe this data as incorrect. Furthermore, the deforestation is not slowing down. It seems that during the Corona crisis the rate of logging has increased, partly due to less regulations. This has also been confirmed from a leaked speech from the Brazilian minister of the Environment.

It seems to be clear for whom the logging has positive effects, and for whom it has negative effects. It is helpful for firms that need a lot of land for their production. These firms are mainly agricultural firms, that want to produce products like soy or livestock. The logging has negative effects for anyone who lives in the woods. This includes the animals and trees in the rainforest, as well as the native tribes that live in the Amazon. For me, the question remains if there is a solution that would be helpful for both parties. Personally I suspect that the marginal profit from one square km of land is decreasing as you gain more of it, simply because you would also need extra workers. Also, there needs to be enough demand for the area to be useful. Therefore it might not be efficient to just keep on expanding het amount of land to be used for the firms, and to keep on with the deforestation. What could be an alternative?

A somewhat controversial option would be to use more GMO’s. GMO stands for genetically modified organism. In these GMO’s, a trait from one plant has been added into the DNA of another plant. By doing this, the new crop can be made more resilient. By using these plants you can produce more by using the same amount of land. Study shows that using GMO’s can increase crop yields by 22%, and the profits of the farmer by 68%. While this may seem like a very good option, it is not a very popular option. Not everyone agrees whether or not GMO’s are safe to eat. There is not explicit proof that it is not safe, but many agree that more research into the topic is necessary.

If this manner of agriculture were proven to be completely safe, it would be a great idea to invest more into this technology and apply the techniques to agriculture. By doing this you would need less land to produce the same amount of crops, which removes the need for logging. Of course there is no explicit need for the deforestation, but unfortunately it does not seem like the firms and government will stop on their own. Maybe when an alternative arises they will listen.

By: Merijn van der Leeuw