Revoke of the Sugarcane Agroecological Zoning is a setback for Brazil
Today, November 6, through a decree nº 10,084, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro revoked the Sugarcane Agroecological Zoning (ZAE Cana), which served to regulate the expansion and production of sugar, ethanol and bioelectricity.
Agroecological Zoning is an instrument defined by the Brazilian Agricultural Policy (Law nº 8.171 of 1991), in the chapter on Protection of the Environment and the Conservation of Natural Resources, to establish criteria for the disciplining and ordering of spatial occupation by the various production activities. In addition to sugarcane, palm oil is the other crop that has an Agroecological Zoning elaborated.
Sugarcane Agroecological Zoning (ZAE Cana) was instrumental in projecting the sugar-energy sector in the international scenario, providing guarantees that Brazilian production followed environmental criteria, facilitating the entry of ethanol in the markets with the strictest environmental rules. The zoning protected all areas in Brazil with natural vegetation, within even more excellent protection in the Amazon and Pantanal, without hindering projected crop expansion - ZAE Cana identified 44 million hectares of sugarcane-prone areas, more than four times the area with sugar cane today.
The end of the Sugarcane Agroecological Zoning puts at risk not only the protection of Amazon and Pantanal, but also all previously protected areas of natural vegetation, especially in the Cerrado.
The sugarcane ZAE also considered edaphoclimatic conditions (related to climate and soil) suitable for cultivation and slope less than 12% for soil protection. Technological development (new equipment and varieties) would justify changes in zoning, allowing harvesting in steeper areas and with other soil and climate conditions, but not their end.
Territorial planning is a crucial tool to promote reconciliation between production and environmental conservation. Especially in the case of activities that require large areas, such as soy, livestock and sugarcane itself, directing the expansion of these activities for better use of the Brazilian territory is possible and necessary. Today in Brazil there are over 60 million hectares of highly degraded pastures that can accommodate all expected growth for the agricultural sector in the coming decades.
In the opposite direction, the Brazilian government chose to reduce the protection of the environment for sugarcane production, instead of expanding the zoning for other crops. Protecting our ecosystems is protecting the rain regime, so crucial for agriculture; it is protecting our biodiversity and protecting communities that depend on different ecosystems for their survival. The ZAE revoke is another setback in the Brazilian environmental policy.