Indigenous people ask for the inclusion of the cerrado in EU regulation – 03/25/2024 – Environment

Indigenous people ask for the inclusion of the cerrado in EU regulation – 03/25/2024 – Environment


The European regulation that bans the import of products resulting from deforestation comes into force at the end of this year, and indigenous Brazilians want the legislation to also protect the cerrado region.

Europeans “need to know where soy comes from, the impact it has on my home, because the cerrado is my home”, says Eliane Xunakalo, while holding her white feather headdress to prevent the Brussels wind from blowing away the delicate piece .

President of Fepoimt (Federation of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Mato Grosso), Xunakalo visited Brussels with other activists to ask MEPs to modify the law to include the protection of the cerrado.

The law, approved last year, prohibits imports of products such as cocoa, coffee, soy, palm oil, wood, beef or rubber if they come from land deforested after December 2020.

But the definition of forest adopted in the law does not include the cerrado, a biome from which a large part of European soy imports come.

The European Commission is expected to examine possible expansion to other ecosystems and products this year, but for Xunakalo and other activists the issue is an emergency.

“Half of the cerrado has already disappeared”, the meadows and bushes have given way to monocultures of soy, cereals or cotton, says Isabel Figueiredo, from the NGO Instituto Sociedade, População e Natureza.

Little known outside of Brazil, the cerrado is the richest savannah in biodiversity on the entire planet. In addition to an extraordinary variety of plants and animals, the region is home to springs that feed river basins throughout the country. This earned it the nickname “cradle of waters”.

Cultivating cereals on sandy, nutrient-poor soils is profitable if production takes place on a large scale. Farmers, financed mainly by multinationals such as Cargill or Bunge, invest considerably in artificial irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides.

To transform the cerrado into arable land, companies use techniques that eliminate native vegetation or burn the surface that must be cultivated.

“The risk is that this fantastic ecosystem, endowed with immense biodiversity, capable of storing carbon, regulating the climate and supplying water to the four corners of Brazil, will collapse, reaching a point of no return”, says Figueiredo.


“Include the cerrado in legislation [da UE] It’s a question of survival”, says Samuel Caetano, from the NGO Rede Cerrado.

European regulation requires importing companies to comply with the environmental legislation of producing countries. “The problem is that the cerrado is not well protected by Brazilian laws, most of which are concentrated in the Amazon rainforest”, explains Giulia Bondi, from the NGO Global Witness.

In Bondi’s opinion, the review procedure already initiated by the European Union through consultations with interested parties is essential to explicitly expand the text and include the cerrado.

Overall, the EU is responsible for 16% of global deforestation through its imports and is the second largest destroyer of tropical forests, behind only China, according to WWF.

European Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius visited Paraguay, Bolivia and Ecuador this month to try to reduce criticism and concerns.

The EU highlights its financial and technical support to help South American producers establish traceability systems, but countries denounce the costly limitations for their small producers and the risk of unfair penalization for their exports.

“The rules are quite demanding in terms of required data flows, but greater transparency of supply chains will help small farmers,” said Nicole Polsterer from the NGO Fern.

The expert highlights, however, the need for support from large companies throughout the process.

“We really hope that the application [da regulação europeia] have broader effects in Brazil, which generates political pressure for greater state supervision over deforestation”, highlights Xunakalo.

Another gap denounced by NGOs in European legislation involves the requirement that importers “verify compliance with the legislation of the country of production”.

“Will this be respected? This requirement is not dissociated from deforestation and is an integral part of the assessment and risk mitigation measures imposed on companies”, explains Bondi.


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