Beware, Brazil

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Thanks as always to the Guardian for coverage of environmental crises in the making:

The Amazon’s new danger: Brazil sets sights on palm oil

Brazil’s ambition to become a palm oil giant could have devastating social and environmental impacts if the move is not carefully managed, say experts

by  in Brasília and Heriberto Araujo in Pará

Jorge Antonini takes a palm kernel in his hands and slices it open. Squeezing it between his fingers, the kernel oozes the oily liquid found in hundreds of everyday products, from cakes to chocolate spread.

The scientist is standing on a government-owned farm near the Brazilian capital of Brasília. Here, he and a small group of colleagues from Embrapa, the powerful state-owned agricultural research agency, are trialling different methods of growing oil palms to improve yield.

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Journalist Tom Levitt holding a palm kernel. An oil palm bunch.

The project Antonini runs might be small scale but the government’s aims are anything but. Already a global agricultural powerhouse and the world’s largest exporter of beef, coffee, maize, soya and sugar, Brazil now wants to muscle its way into the lucrative palm oil trade.

“We want to compete with Indonesia and Malaysia,” says Antonini, Embrapa’s head of palm oil research, referring to the world’s two dominant producers of the commodity. Between them, Indonesia and Malaysia account for more than 80% of global production.

Read the whole story here.

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