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Brazil proposes banning sugarcane in Amazon

September 18th, 2009

sugarcaneBrazil will prohibit sugarcane-ethanol plantations in the Amazon and other ecologically sensitive areas of Latin America’s largest nation under a plan unveiled Thursday by the administration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The proposal, if approved by Congress, will ensure Brazilian ethanol made from sugarcane is environmentally friendly and ease concerns the plantations could one day carpet the rainforest, said Environment Minister Carlos Minc.

“Our ethanol will be 100 percent green with these measures,” Minc said.

The move would limit sugarcane plantations to 7.5 percent of Brazilian territory. The plantations where ethanol is produced with on-site or nearby distilleries would also be banned from food-growing areas and the vast Pantanal wetlands bordering Bolivia.

Brazil is the world’s biggest ethanol exporter, and a huge consumer. The fuel powers most new cars sold in the South American country.

The proposed limitations would set aside 163 million acres (66 million hectares) where sugarcane could be grown, said Agriculture Minister Reinhold Stephanes. That’s an area slightly larger than France.

Brazil has nearly 22 million acres (9 million hectares) of sugarcane planted now and expects to devote another 15 million acres (6 million hectares) to the crop over the next decade.

The country is also the world’s largest sugar producer, with many of its cane plantations producing both products.

Congress is expected to vote on the plan to limit the plantations next year.

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