*Caio Penido, Chairman of GTPS
As Chairman of GTPS, the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock, I have recently participated in GRSB’s Ireland, Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, a global event that brings together sustainable livestock roundtables from many countries. I realized that what moves each country are their particular challenges. While for some the problem is the use of hormones and antibiotics, for others it is the lack of land regulation; while the problem for some is slaughter, for others it is the need to reduce confinement; while for some the problem is the lack of environmental legislation, for others it is the animal welfare … Note that in all the above cases Brazil is in a privileged situation: our production is mostly pasture, bringing animal welfare; because of the tropical climate, our demand for the use of antibiotics is reduced; and we can also intensify our livestock production in a sustainable way, with the possibility of using the integration of livestock with agriculture and with the forest.
We already have a Forest Code and mechanisms to measure the carbon balance of properties and of Brazil. Our biggest problem, ironically, is our rich biodiversity. Because of the risk that exists in its destruction, markets close to our products, preferring to buy from countries that no longer have biodiversity. This has confused Brazilian producers, who are unfairly subjected to the condition of nature’s enemy: How are we not recognized as caretakers of biodiversity if today we have more than 60% of our national territory covered with native vegetation? If a third of our biodiversity is inside the rural properties, cared for and financed only by the Brazilian producer, why doesn’t world recognize these attributes and pay us more for our products? In my opinion, nature and the production of food are not competing, both need understanding, and to overcome the challenges that lie ahead they will need to work together.
Challenge 2050: There is a growing demand for food due to population growth. We will be 9.5 billion by 2050 and countries, such as China, are going through a process of enriching the population and its consequent in the food consumer market. According to the UN and OECD, it will be up to Brazil, with availability of land and technology, to contribute with 40% of the increase in food supply, producing more, for all and for ever!
Climate Change: There is the challenge of conservation so that the forest is not deforested and CO2 does not go to the atmosphere to warm it. Through continuous improvements, we can also stimulate low emission productive systems, such as the integration capacity and intensification of our pastures, to neutralize the gastric emissions of cattle through the increase of carbon in the soil. Brazil is an Agro-Environmental potency, which needs to be recognized and valued, starting by its own population. However, we do not have to abandon the Paris Accord or revolt against the rest of the world, which often has no biodiversity and does not recognize our advances in the incessant search for sustainable agriculture and a modern legal apparatus. Rather, we must lead this process in a transparent and participatory manner. I see in this next exchange of government the opportunity to improve the Paris Agreement, that is still incomplete, including incentives and policies that value countries rich in biodiversity, mostly underdeveloped or developing.
We are big producers of food and we also provide in our six biomes, a series of environmental or ecosystem services that make existence on the planet easier and contribute to the conservation of our natural resources. What we lack are compensation tools for these services that stimulate conservation and preservation. The biodiversity that provides environmental services should be a competitive advantage for Brazil. The sentiment of speakers from other countries at the RCSB meeting to which I referred at the beginning of the article in this regard is clear. All countries want to have what we have, the ability to feed the world, keeping most of the country with native plant cover rich in biodiversity.
Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to transform all these virtues and opportunities into competitive advantages for Brazil. Rather, our assets have been used against our legitimate right to grow and develop toward a more prosperous and fair country. We are being excluded from important international markets in the form of non-tariff barriers, on the pretext of the threat of deforestation associated with our products.
If the forest was no longer a competitive advantage, some thought ending it could be the solution. Meanwhile, the other side advocates zero deforestation at all costs, even disrespecting the right to property and overlapping the forest code. We need not polarize in two unilateral views. There is another path, a path where everyone wins, where the owner of land is respected, the environment is preserved, Brazil is recognized, and its products valued!
Why is a country like Brazil, with the potential to be a protagonist to solve two major world crises, seen as a problem and not a solution? What can be done?
We must educate consumers to recognize value and pay more for products that are proven to be sustainable, thereby rewarding those who “do it right” and motivating those who are wrong to get right, motivated by the real prospect of improving income.
It is time to look for more vigorous and professional action with the WTO and other international bodies to assess whether unfair competition is taking place between our products – which bear the environmental cost – and products from other countries that do not spend anything on the environment.
In the federal government, under the Ministry of Finance, create PES schemes and taxation of non-renewable sources. Together with the Ministry of Defense, ensure that the valuation of our environmental assets does not threaten our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Strengthen the Ministry of the Environment in monitoring our emissions and deforestation balance, appropriately quantified and qualified. In the Ministry of Agriculture, strengthen the programs of Low Carbon Agriculture and sustainable production systems. Finally, an aggressive and well-founded stance of our diplomacy, aided by our agricultural envoys, reaffirming our status as food producers and environmentalists.
For the new president of an Agro-Environmental Power, this is the time to defend our true natural vocation of food, fiber and energy producers in a sustainable and inclusive way. Produce more by adding value to sustainable products, valuing the environmental asset as a conservation strategy and stimulating conscious consumption and low emission production systems! Only in this way can we be proud of being this great Agro-Environmental authority, an important food producer and holder of the greatest biodiversity in the world!