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South America Environment, Science &Technology, and Health Newsletter Edition 99

by Stoner, Larissa A — last modified Jan 10, 2013 10:03 AM
Contributors: rhessmiller
The information contained was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only.
Agriculture: Embrapa and BASF create first Brazilian genetically modified soybean variety; Peru City Bans GM to Protect Native Potatoes. Forests: Brazil Launches Inquiry into Illegal Logging Claims; Chile's: Senate Passes Native Forest Law; Chile’s Forestry Sector Set to Expand Internationally Peru-Brazil: Tribes Flee 'Red Gold' Rush; Timber Stolen From Indigenous Land in Brazil Receives Certification from Smartwood-FSC; Brazil: Steel and Eucalyptus Heat Up Eastern Amazon. Fishing & Marine Conservation: Chile: Highly Contagious Fish Virus Detected In Chiloé. Protected Areas: In the Amazon: Conservation or Colonialism? Science & Technology: Venezuela: Shell Allocates USD2.6 Million for Science. Waste Management & Pollution: Guyana: World Wildlife Fund Sounds Mercury Warning; Chile’s Conama Wants New Study on River Polluted by Celco Paraguay: Hospitals - Generating Health or Pollution? Energy: Brazil Works on Biofuel Environmental Certification; Guyana Can Be Bio-Fuel Pioneer, says IDB President; Ethanol Sugarcane Threatens Brazil's Wooded Savanna; Brazilian Amazon Produces Sugar Cane For Ethanol. General: Guyana Signs Millennium Challenge Corporation Grant to Support Fiscal Reforms; Peru: Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Receives Donation from World Bank.

NOTE: The South America ESTH Newsletter is now also available on the Intranet -

Edition #99. Also attached is a calendar of up-coming ESTH events across the Western Hemisphere. The information contained was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so.


Embrapa and Basf Create First Brazilian Genetically Modified Soybean Variety

AUG. 08, 2007 – The Brazilian federal agricultural research agency Embrapa and German multinational BASF announced the development of the first Brazilian genetically modified plant: a soybean variety resistant to herbicides. Story says that the product is the result of ten years of research and that it will compete with a genetically modified variety produced by Monsanto.

Source – Public Affairs US Embassy Brasilia based on report in O Estado de Sao Paulo

Peru City Bans GM to Protect Native Potatoes

JULY 24, 2007 - The regional government of Cusco, Peru has banned genetically modified (GM) products in the region to protect the diversity of thousands of native potato varieties and other Andean food crops. The order was announced July 20 at a press conference. It forbids GM research and the sale, cultivation, use and transport of GM products in the Cusco region. Abel Caballero, head of the regional government's natural resources and environment department, said the government made the decision after considering the risk of genetic and environmental contamination from GM products, as well as the threat to people's health and their ancient culture. The government announced they will promote conservation programs for native biological crops and programs to recover ancient knowledge and practices related to biodiversity. Developing and using genetically modified organisms is currently not allowed in Peru, as the country has not yet adopted laws governing their safe use.

Source – SciDev


Launches Inquiry into Illegal Logging Claims

AUG. 23, 2007 - Brazil's government has launched an investigation following accusations that it was selling off large tracts of the Amazon under cover of sustainable development programs. The allegations, first reported in The Independent this week, centered on a program to settle homeless people in the Amazon which has been hijacked by commercial logging interests. Greenpeace, which led an eight-month investigation into the settlements, said the policy was leading to uncontrolled logging and deforestation. Felipe Fritz Braga, the federal prosecutor in Santarem in the west of the state of Para, where the new settlements have been created, has begun civil proceedings demanding the closure of all 99 settlements created in the region between 2005 and 2007. All were created without the environmental license required by law. Greenpeace says that the new settlement program is opening the forest up to "gross exploitation". The Environment minister, Marina Silva, has said that the distribution of land to poor families is important, but that the claims will be investigated in full.

Source - Independent

Chile's: Senate Passes Native Forest Law

AUG. 19, 2007 - After more than 15 years of delay and revision, a law offering limited protection for Chile's native forests was finally approved by the Senate Aug. 14. The vote was unanimous, 35-0. Most analysts attribute the 15-year delay to a strong lobby by Chile's politically powerful forestry company lobby, led by the Matte and Angelini business conglomerates. Lack of serious legislation protecting Chile's native hardwood forests has given them carte blanche to develop hundreds of thousands of pine and eucalyptus tree plantations, which oftentimes replaced native forests. The new Forestry Law will now be debated in the House of Deputies, and is likely to pass with little modification by the end of the year.

Source – WorldPress

Chile’s Forestry Sector Set to Expand Internationally

AUG. 22, 2007 - Chilean forestry companies COPEC, CMPC, and Masisa are focusing on international expansion projects after reporting remarkably high earnings for the first half of this year due to sharp price increases for their products. But critics say the industry should pay greater attention to environmental problems at home before spending vast sums of money on international expansion. COPEC, of the Angelini group, is currently negotiating the acquisition of more forestry property and a saw mill in Brazil from Stora Enso, a global forest product company. Meanwhile, the Matte group’s CMPC cellulose production company recently completed its Santa Fe II plant and is now expanding internationally in Uruguay, Argentina, Peru, and Mexico. Finally, the Masisa forestry company is exploring business opportunities in other South American countries after quadrupling its productivity and earning US$19.5 million in the first half of this year.

Source – Santiago Times (no link)

Peru-Brazil: Tribes Flee 'Red Gold' Rush

AUG. 03, 2007 - A large group of uncontacted Indians has appeared in a remote village in the Amazon rainforest near the Peru-Brazil border, a Brazilian government official and expert on uncontacted tribes has reported. The Indians are believed to have fled from Peru into Brazil because of illegal loggers sweeping through Peru's rainforests in search of rare mahogany, known as 'red gold.' The loggers are destroying the Indians' territories, forcing them to seek refuge elsewhere and leading to dangerous contacts with outsiders. 'We are on the verge of disaster. Illegal logging in protected areas in Peru is pushing the uncontacted tribes into

Brazil, which could cause conflicts and lead to their appearance in places where they have never been seen before,' said José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Júnior, head of the Indian Protection post near the Peru border. Peru has some of the world's last commercially-viable mahogany stands in the world, growing in areas inhabited by some of the world's last uncontacted tribes. Stephen Corry, Survival's Director, said ‘The Peruvian government must act now to stop the logging on the uncontacted tribes' land. If it doesn't, they could be the first people to be made extinct in the 21st century.'

Source -

Timber Stolen From Indigenous Land in Brazil Receives Certification from Smartwood-FSC Peru

JULY 30, 2007 - The Ashaninka indigenous people in the Apiwtxa community in Acre have published a letter on the invasions along the Brazil-Peruvian border, in which they harshly criticize the Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood Program, which fails to consider the illegal actions of the Forestal Venao timber company over the last few years and, in April 2007, granted the company FSC certification in Peru. According to the Ashaninka, before deciding to certify Forestal Venao, the SmartWood Program should have consulted the surrounding population, to understand what its true practices and environmental, social and cultural impacts have been, including in Brazil. The Ashaninka claim that Forestal Venao is also supporting the establishment of new indigenous lands on the Peruvian side, bringing in families from other regions. "The leaders of these communities have allied themselves to the company, interested in logging along the border between Brazil and Peru."

Source - SEE ALSO

Brazil: Steel and Eucalyptus Heat Up Eastern Amazon

JUL 02, 2007 - Brazil's Environment Ministry entered a minefield when it proposed a sustainable forest district to contain deforestation in the steel-making center of Carajás, one of the most devastated and violent areas in the Amazon. With a resounding "'No' to projects that involve destruction and death," local social and environmental movements rejected the idea, which they see as a continuation of the deforestation process of the eastern Amazon, aggravated by promotion of eucalyptus monoculture to obtain charcoal to fuel the steel factories. Meanwhile, the industry executives want to change the legislation that requires preserving up to 80 percent of the forests of existing properties within the boundaries of the "Legal Amazon", encompassing nine Brazilian states. The local companies "will only sustain themselves if there is a 50-percent reduction" in the forest coverage quota, because there are too many agricultural problems and previous deforestation, says Ricardo Nascimento, president of the Iron Industrial Syndicate, of the northeastern state of Maranhao. But that move would trigger protests from a world increasingly mobilized against climate change, one of whose principal causes is precisely the deforestation of the vast Amazon region.

Source – Tierramerica

Fishing & Marine Conservation

Chile: Highly Contagious Fish Virus Detected In Chiloé

AUG. 1, 2007 - Scientists in Chile and Canada have confirmed the presence in Chiloé (Region X) of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA), a highly contagious virus that can be lethal to fish but does not affect humans. The confirmation prompted SalmonChile, the country’s private salmon producers association, to declare an industry-wide health alert. To avoid the spread of the disease, which was detected on two Marine Harvest farms, area producers were asked to take preventative measures, which include restricting the movement of salmon. Norwegian-owned Marine Harvest in the world’s largest salmon producer.

Source – Santiago Times (no link)

Protected Areas

In the Amazon: Conservation or Colonialism?

July 26, 2007 - Depending on one's point of view, the World Wildlife Fund's financial support of a nature reserve here on the Rio Negro is either part of a laudable attempt to conserve the Amazon jungle — or the leading edge of a nefarious plot by foreign environmental groups to wrest control of the world's largest rain forest from Brazil and replace it with international rule. In 2003, after signing an agreement with the WWF and the World Bank, the Brazilian government created the Amazon Region Protected Areas program. Since then, more than a score of national parks and reserves covering an area larger than New York, New Jersey and Connecticut combined have been brought into that network and provided with an infusion of new funds. But this effort has aroused the suspicions of powerful business and political groups in Brazil that want to integrate the Amazon into the country's economy through dams, mining projects, highways, ports, logging and agricultural exports.

Source – IHT

Science & Technology

Venezuela: Shell Allocates USD2.6 Million for Science

AUG. 25, 2007 – Venezuela’s Observatory for Science, Technology, and Innovation, which is part of the Ministry of Science, will increase by 20 percent it’s funding for scientist under the Research Promotion Program, which includes 5,222 scientists. This increase will be possible thanks to funding from Shell Oil Company. Researchers are given the extra funding on a monthly basis once their scientific productivity is proven to be laudable of the funding.

Source – SciDev

Waste Management & Pollution

Guyana: World Wildlife Fund Sounds Mercury Warning

AUG. 22, 2007 – According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Guyana, unless adequate measures are taken to trap mercury after it is used in mining operations, mercury will continue to pose health threats to those persons living in and around mining camps. WWF representative Rickford Vieira issued this warning during a presentation to delegates at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) mining conference. Vieira pointed out that while efforts have been made by GGMC to monitor mining operations, he believes that the commission's work is limited somewhat because of insufficient personnel. Because of Guyana's vast interior, mining camps are sometimes located very far away from each other and according to Vieira there are instances where only one engineer or five officers are in charge of monitoring a whole area and so it is difficult for them to visit every operation. He explained that the great influx of miners from nearby Brazil, who are now scattered throughout the interior, has now made it harder for the commission to contain and adequately manage the sector.

Source – StabroekNews

Chile’s Conama Wants New Study on River Polluted By Celco

AUG. 8, 2007 - Chile’s National Environmental Commission (Conama) announced it will launch a study to gauge the environmental damage in that Mataquito River caused by pollution from a nearby CELCO wood pulp plant. Additionally, Conama disclosed it will seek international aide for this initiative by invoking of The Convention on Wetlands Treaty. Aside from studying the environmental impact to the river, Conama hopes to generate a “Recovery and Compensation Plan” which will include possible ways to undue damage to the river and restore the area’s natural beauty. The work will be concentrated between a point three kilometers upstream from the CELCO plant and Mataquito River’s opening to the sea. Controversy concerning this river dates from June 5, when residents near the Mataquito River began noticing thousands of dead fish. The problem, which was immediately attributed to the nearby CELCO plant, also affected birds and livestock.

Source – Santiago Times (no link)

Paraguay: Hospitals - Generating Health or Pollution?

AUG. 01, 2007 – It has been a year [since] the government’s declaration of a health emergency when the two obsolete incinerators that disposed of the waste generated by the city’s public hospitals were closed down. Given the lack of other means of disposing of hospital waste, collection was suspended for nearly two months. The accumulation of waste reached levels incompatible with minimal hygiene standards, to the point that scheduled surgical operations had to be cancelled for fear of the spread of hospital infections. Paraguay has one of the highest rates of production of waste per hospital bed in the region. The Public Health Ministry reports that an average of three kg per patient are generated, far above Argentina’s 800 grams and Brazil and Chile’s 900 grams. The Public Health Ministry launched a program last year to reduce that quantity by means of in situ separation of waste. The department of health services is training health personnel to classify garbage by disposing of it in three different kinds of bags: black for general waste that requires no special treatment; yellow for uncontaminated plastics; and red for pathogenic waste. Under a draft law that is in debate in Congress, management of hospital waste "would be the exclusive responsibility of the health centre that generates it, whether public or private," said Romero.

Source – IPS


Brazil Works on Biofuel Environmental Certification

AUG. 27, 2007 - Federal agricultural research agency Embrapa plans to release in September the first mechanism to evaluate the environmental impact of biofuel production, which is the first step towards the creation of a global environmental quality certification for this sector. Biodiesel production from the palm oil plant should be the first to receive this “eco-certification,” which is being developed with French agricultural research institution Cerad.

Source – Public Affairs US Embassy Brasilia

Guyana Can Be Bio-Fuel Pioneer, says IDB President

AUG. 07, 2007 - Guyana is to receive a US$850,000 grant from Japan through the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to screen bio-energy proposals. The President of the IDB, Luis Alberto Moreno told the gathering that the grant would help to jump start investment for bio fuel production and co-generation using bio-mass. According to the press report, a number of companies from Brazil, the US and India have indicated through proposals their interest in investing in bio-fuel/agro-energy production in Guyana. Moreno disclosed, too, that in the coming months, as part of a green energy initiative, the IDB would begin to disburse grants and loans to the tune of US$300M on sustainable energy programs and climate change initiatives. The funds would be used to finance projects in energy efficiency and renewable bio-energy.

Source – StabroekNews

Ethanol Sugarcane Threatens Brazil's Wooded Savanna

JULY 31, 2007 - In the past four decades, more than half of the Cerrado ecosystem has been transformed by the encroachment of cattle ranchers and soybean farmers. And now another demand is quickly eating into the landscape: sugarcane, the raw material for Brazilian ethanol. "Deforestation in the Cerrado is actually happening at a higher rate than it has in the Amazon," said John Buchanan, senior director of business practices for Conservation International in Arlington. "If the actual deforestation rates continue, all the remaining vegetation in the Cerrado could be lost by the year 2030. That would be a huge loss of biodiversity." The Brazilian government and big agribusiness companies say that the expansion of soybean and sugarcane fields doesn't necessarily mean devastation of the Cerrado, which hosts an estimated 160,000 species of animals and plants, many threatened with extinction. They say they plant on wastelands and pastures where cattle once grazed, improving the soil quality and productivity. But environmental groups argue that as soy and sugarcane displace cattle and less lucrative crops, ranchers are moving farther into the unspoiled areas of the Cerrado.

Source – Washington Post

Brazilian Amazon Produces Sugar Cane For Ethanol

JULY 31, 2007 - Contrary to some government assertions, there is significant production of sugar cane in the Brazilian Amazon for ethanol production, and it is growing. Government figures indicate that sugar cane production in the Amazon region states of Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará and Tocantins has increased from 17.6 million tons to 19.3 million tons in one year. Those figures don’t include Acre, which according to the Brazilian agricultural research agency Empraba has the same potential for sugar cane production as traditional producers like São Paulo and Pernambuco: 3% of its area is suitable for sugar cane production and the state government has an incentive program for ethanol.

Source – Public Affairs US Embassy Brasilia based on a report in Brazilian daily O Globo


Guyana Signs Millennium Challenge Corporation Grant to Support Fiscal Reforms

AUG. 23, 2007 – A Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Threshold Program agreement has been signed between the United States and Guyana. The two-year US$6.7 million program focuses on reducing Guyana’s fiscal deficit by improving its ability to collect revenue and better manage its budget. Additionally, the program will help reduce the number of days and cost to start a business by streamlining business registrations. MCC’s Threshold Program is designed to assist countries that are on the “threshold” of eligibility for Millennium Challenge Account Compacts. Threshold Program assistance is used to help countries address the specific policy weaknesses indicated by the country’s scores on 16 policy indicators in three categories—Ruling Justly, Investing in People, and Encouraging Economic Freedom. The assistance package for the Government of Guyana is focused on improving the country’s performance on the Economic Freedom indicator.

Source – Millennium Challenge Corporation

Peru: Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Receives Donation from World Bank

AUG. 09, 2007 - Official gazette El Peruano carried a Ministerial Resolution of the Ministry of Energy & Mines (MEM) accepting a $300,000 donation from multiple donors managed by the World Bank for the implementation in Peru of the “Action Plan for the Implementation of the EITI.” EITI, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, supports improved governance in resource-rich countries through the verification and full publication of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas, and mining. The Initiative works to build multi-stakeholder partnerships in developing countries in order to increase the accountability of governments. Good governance is a precondition for converting large revenues from extractive industries into economic growth and poverty reduction. When transparency and accountability are weak, the extractive industries may instead contribute to poverty, corruption, and conflict—the so-called “resource curse.” The EITI is an important step in defeating this “curse.”

Source – US Embassy Lima

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