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Cattle ranchers culprits of deforestation

CATTLE ranchers are far bigger culprits in Amazon deforestation than soy farmers, a study showed on Tuesday, as the environmental record of Brazil's commodity exporters comes under increasing international scrutiny.

The study, produced jointly by environmental groups and the soy industry, showed that only 12 of 630 sample areas deforested since July 2006 - or 0.88 percent of 157,896 hectares - were planted with soy. By comparison, nearly 200 of the sample areas were converted into pasture land for cattle.

The rest of the deforested areas had not yet been put to use.

"The big villain of Amazon destruction is cattle ranching," said Paulo Adario, Amazon campaign coordinator with Greenpeace, one of the groups that sponsored the report.

Each year country-sized chunks of the world's largest rain forest are devastated, although the rate has fallen sharply from a few years ago and preliminary data shows it fell further in the past 10 months.

In addition to loggers, ranchers and peasants, large-scale farmers are often blamed for contributing to the devastation as Brazil's agricultural frontier has expanded due to strong foreign demand for the country's commodities. Brazil is the world's biggest beef exporter and the second-largest exporter of soy.

Adario said the size of deforested plots had been falling consistently in recent years. That suggests that soy farmers, who require large areas to be efficient, were no longer involved directly in clearing forest.


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