The false dichotomy between preservation of the natural vegetation and food production in Brazil


  • Luiz Antonio Martinelli Universidade de São Paulo, Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura
  • Carlos Alfredo Joly Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Departamento de Biologia Vegetal
  • Carlos Afonso Nobre Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre
  • Gerd Sparovek Universidade de São Paulo, Departamento de Ciência do Solo


food, land use, preservation, environmental law, Brazilian Forest Code


Through the analysis of census data on land use in Brazil this article shows that the dichotomy between food production and preservation of natural vegetation used as the main driver to change the Forest Code is false. We showed here that Brazil has already cleared an area large enough that support the production of food, fiber and bioenergy to meet the requirements of the country and global markets. We also showed the area of export-oriented crops like soybean and sugar cane have been expanded significantly in the last decades, while staple crops like rice and bean have decreased and the area planted with cassava has been stable for the last four decades. At the same time we show that the productivity of export-oriented crops has increased in a much more significant rate than staple crops or cattle stocking rate, which in average is extremely low in Brazil. We concluded by stating that the real constraint for food production in Brazil does not rely on the Forest Code environmental restrictions but instead in inequalities in land distribution and income, coupled with lack of credit to small producers and investment in research and development in the staples crops of the country.




How to Cite

Martinelli, L. A., Joly, C. A., Nobre, C. A., & Sparovek, G. (2010). The false dichotomy between preservation of the natural vegetation and food production in Brazil. Biota Neotropica, 10(4). Retrieved from



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