Rising Commodity Prices Continue to Spur Loss of Amazon Forest

Brazil’s new environment minister reported that destruction of the Amazon rain forest increased markedly in April and warned that the high price of global commodities may lead to an even greater jump in forest clearing this summer.

The minister, Carlos Minc, said deforestation jumped roughly 10-fold from March to April — from 56 square miles to 433 square miles — though some of that increase was due to better satellite detection of deforestation in April, a less cloudy month. The real test will come this summer, he said, when forest clearing for agriculture and cattle ranching reaches its peak. Minc last month replaced Marina Silva as environment minister, in a move that environmentalists feared was a concession to agricultural and economic forces interested in further expanding their reach into the Amazon. Destruction of the Brazilian Amazon spiked in the second half of 2007, driven in part by record prices for commodities, such as beef and soybeans. Several recent studies have forecast that if present trends continue, 50 percent of the world’s largest rain forest could be destroyed or degraded by 2030.