SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil's Chamber of Deputies approved on Wednesday a controversial law, known as the Forest Code, that eases rules on how much land farmers must preserve as forest.
The country's powerful farmers' lobby argued the changes made with the new legislation will promote sustainable food production, but environmentalists said the Forest Code will be disastrous and lead to even more destruction of the Amazon, reported BBC News. The 247-184 vote in favor of the law finishes off a long year of political back-and-forth between the two sides. The bill will now go to President Dilma Rousseff, who has the ability to use her veto to remove some clauses.
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According to Reuters, the Forest Code has had many versions, but the final law will leave it up to federal states to decide how much forest can be farmed along riverbanks and on hilltops, making it possible for big farming states to make only minimal demands of growers.
"This vote is a big setback," environmental lawyer Raul do Valle with the watchdog group Instituto Socioambiental, said to the Associated Press. "What Brazil built for decades, legislation that protected its forests, is being nullified."
Supporters of the Forest Code disagree, saying it gives Brazilian farmers who have been forced from working land by strong environmental restrictions the help they've long needed.
"We intended to create a text that would not expel a single producer nor a single worker from the Brazilian countryside," Deputy Paulo Piau, who introduced the latest version of the bill, said to the AP.
Between 2000 and 2010, more than 18 million hectares (44.5 million acres) of Amazonian rainforest were cleared, according to Bloomberg. That amounts to land about the size of Syria.
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