Brazil's Wetlands Threatened by Agribusiness
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil The boom in agribusiness in Brazil's midwest threatens to destroy the world's largest freshwater wetland, scientists said Monday.
Dr. Paulo Teixeira, a scientist associated with the United Nations University, said that intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides by farmers in Mato Grosso state is already having a demonstrable impact on the 165,000-hectare (407,550-acre) Pantanal wetland.
He said scientists have detected pollution in four of the Pantanal's main rivers, which eventually will damage the wetland's fragile ecosystem.
"From the moment you have data showing there is a problem, it's better to prevent it before it becomes too late," Teixeira said by telephone from the Mato Grosso state capital of Cuiaba, 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) northwest of Rio.
"In the United States, the government is spending US$8 billion to undo the environmental problems in the Everglades and that's a massive sum, too much for a country like Brazil," he added.
The Florida Everglades suffered serious environmental damage following drainage projects in the 1940s intended to make way for development and agriculture.
Mato Grosso state is in the heart of Brazil's agricultural frontier, where developers have cut down huge swaths of jungle and savanna to plant grain, mostly soy.
Increased output from Mato Grosso has helped Brazil overtake the United States as the world's largest exporter of soy beans in terms of volume. Brazil also appears likely to become the No. 1 exporter in dollar terms soon.
According to Teixeira, the Pantanal plays an important role in storing and purifying water and stabilizing temperature and rainfall.
Source: Associated Press