The New Brazilian Forest Code: A Product of Political Consensus

Environmental policy does not align with political doctrine, but rather with knowledge and common sense. The result of a broad and democratic debate, Brazil's new Forest Code is widely supported by the government and the majority of Congress, both of which act as representatives for the urban and rural populations of Brazil. The Forest Code showed considerable momentum as it passed through the Senate with a vote of 59-7, and will likely proceed through the last step of the process in the House of Representatives with ease.

Brazil's revised Forest Code will undoubtedly be the most rigorous and restrictive environmental legislation of its kind in the world. It requires that farms in the Amazon biome must preserve 80% of their arable land. In Brazil's other biomes, landowners must maintain either 20% or 35% of their land as untouched reserves. Furthermore, the legislation also requires that areas of permanent preservation, such as the land along rivers and hillsides, remain completely untouched. Such requirements do not exist in any other country, and are why 61% of Brazil's territory is home to its original vegetation while Europe and the United States have already cleared most of their arable land.

In no way does the new Forest Code encourage deforestation or the use of farmland beyond the confines of the law. The legislation does not aim to grant amnesty or to blindly eliminate fines; rather it will suspend penalties only when landowners and agricultural producers have proven that they are operating their land according to the provisions of the Program for Environmental Regulation. When considering the best interests of the environment, which is more productive: collecting fines or regenerating our natural resources?

The Forest Code is not perfect, nor can it completely satisfy all points of view. It is, however, a positive step for Brazil and our environment. The new Code will provide greater legal certainty within our agricultural sector, allow our farmers to continue producing high-quality and affordable food, and ensure that Brazil maintains its strong trade surpluses. Brazil's Forest Code is the result of a democratic agreement, and contains the moral backbone necessary to ensure its continued success. After all, every good law is the result of a broad social consensus.

Kátia Abreu is a senator from the state of Tocantins, and is the president of the National Confederation of Agricultural and Livestock of Brazil