Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Brazil's 'chainsaw queen' takes on environmentalists

Jonathan Watts in the Guardian (UK): Outside the political hothouse of Brasilia, there are probably few who can name the head of Brazil's powerful agricultural lobby, yet the woman in question, Kátia Abreu, is rapidly becoming the country's most interesting, important – and dangerous – politician.

The senator and rancher from Goiás was an influential force in the weakening of Brazil's forest code blamed by many for the recent rise in Amazon deforestation. Her support – in parliament and in an acerbic newspaper column – for more roads through the Amazon, congressional control over demarcation of indigenous reserves, more efficient monocultures and genetically modified "terminator seeds" has earned her the wrath of environmentalists who have called her "Miss Deforestation", "chainsaw queen" and the "face of evil".

...Her primary objective is to boost agricultural output, which accounts for a big (23%) and growing share of Brazil's economy. Harvests of soy and other products have surged in recent years, putting the country – according to Abreu – on course to surpass the US even without further deforestation. "We have all the essential elements: abundant water, advanced technology and plenty of land for production. Based on this, we can become number one without cutting down trees."

Her bullish business message is underpinned by flag-waving nationalism and attacks on any group accused of trying to slow the growth of Brazilian agriculture. This include environmentalists, indigenous groups and landless peasants, all of whom she alleged – without evidence – were working for foreign interests. "I don't have concrete proof of this but I get a very strong impression that this is the case," she said....

Senator Katia Abreu, by Antonio Cruz of Agência Brasil, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil license 

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