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  • An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle recently cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Novo Progresso, Brazil.

    An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle recently cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Novo Progresso, Brazil. | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 October 2018

The current Brazilian environment and agriculture ministers criticized Bolsonaro’s plans to merge their two ministries, saying it would hurt the country’s agenda on both fronts.

As part of a plan to reduce the Brazilian public sector, far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro pledges to halve the number of existing institutions and to merge the Ministry of Environment with the Ministry of Agriculture.

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Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said he is against the proposed merger, which he believes would cause economic losses to the country.

Earlier in the day, Environment Minister Edson Duarte said in a statement that he was surprised and concerned by the announcement regarding plans to combine the agriculture and environmental portfolios.

'The new ministry that would emerge from the fusion...would have difficulties operating that could result in damages to both agendas,' Duarte’s statement said. 'The national economy would suffer, especially agribusiness, in the face of possible trade retaliation on the part of importing countries.'

The intended merger also prompted reactions from the World Wild Fund (WWF), an international NGO widely known for its environmental activities at the Amazon basin.

‘The huge Brazilian natural heritage demands special attention, and this justifies a ministry’ said the WWF, and added that Bolsonaro’s proposal ‘is a big misconception, with negative effects for various sectors of the economy.’

The international NGO considers that the announced ínstitutional merger puts at risk the necessary balance of forces in public policy, creating conflicts of interest that would jeopardize decades of progress in environmental protection.

‘The Ministry of the Environment’s work is not limited to agricultural and forestry issues. It includes, among others, the preservation of Brazilian biomes, the protection of biodiversity; the fight against biopiracy, illegal deforestation and other environmental crimes… the use of chemicals and water safety.’

The WWF press release also warns that 20% of the Amazon rainforest has disappeared over the last 20 years. “If deforestation reaches 25%, the forest can enter a "point of no return", from which all its equilibrium will be changed, through an irreversible process of savannization, with the loss of its environmental services”.

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