Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Brazil Seeks to Rein in Foreign Influence in Amazon, Planet Ark, July 16, 2008.

BRASILIA - With Amazon deforestation accelerating, Brazilian politicians and senior officials are increasingly portraying foreign groups working in the forest as a threat to national security that need to be reined in.

Invading armies, theft of medicinal plants, spying and land grabs are among the specters being raised by officials in Brasilia to justify tougher measures such as limits on land ownership and restrictions on environmental groups' activities.

Nationalists, especially in military and intelligence circles, have long harbored conspiracy theories that foreigners are scheming to take Amazon resources.

But in recent months -- a period that has coincided with a spike in destruction of the world's largest forest -- they have become louder and more public.

Some legislators are concerned about foreign businesses buying land in the Amazon.

"The growing acquisition of land by foreigners in the Amazon is a threat to our national security, we need to impose restrictions now," Sen. Joao Pedro told Reuters.

The government accuses some non-governmental organizations of biopiracy -- stealing medicinal plants for pharmaceutical purposes -- but has provided little evidence.

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