The Amazon is being deforested more than three times as fast as last year, Brazilian officials said Monday, acknowledging a sharp reversal after three years of declines in the deforestation rate.
Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc said upcoming nationwide elections were partly to blame, with mayors in the Amazon region turning a blind eye to illegal logging in hopes of gaining votes locally.
Nongovernment environmentalists blame the global hike in food prices for encouraging soy farmers and cattle ranchers to clear land for crops and grazing.
Also Monday, Minc released a list of what he said were the 100 individuals or companies responsible for the most deforestation since 2005.
Leading the list was the Brazilian government’s own land and agrarian reform agency, INCRA.
Greenpeace has accused INCRA officials of illegally handing over sections of rainforest to logging companies and creating fake settlements to skirt environmental regulations.
Minc said INCRA was responsible for destroying 544,000 acres of the Amazon in the last three years.
But INCRA President Rolf Hackbart said the areas cited by Minc as being deforested by INCRA were areas legally settled between 1995 and 2002.
Most of Minc’s list consists of Brazilian farmers and ranchers.