THE USE OF
SATELLITE IMAGES FOR PROSECUTING PERSONS AND COMPANIES
THAT HAVE CAUSED DEFORESTATION IN THE AMAZON REGION
of the Union (AGU)
Association for Aeronautic and Space Law (SBDA)
dos Campos, SP, Brazil
the request of the Brazilian Government, the Brazilian National
Institute for Space Research (INPE) has used satellite imagery to make a
systematic study of Amazon deforestation since April 1989. INPE’s
projects related to Amazon, namely PRODES and DETER, include the use of
remote sensing satellite images for deforestation assessment.
Data obtained using these projects are
fundamental to define the measures that will be taken by the Brazilian
Government, including public policies of prevention and surveillance
where deforestation has increased. According to PRODES data, the
Amazon’s deforestation reached 7,000 km2 from August 2009 to
July 2010. One of the causes of deforestation is the use of the areas
for livestock, especially to raise cattle. It is cheaper to overthrow
the forest to transform it in a pasture area than investing money in
research and technology. The Amazon is the region in Brazil where the
herd of cattle has been more increased in the last years. According to
the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), since 1995,
70% of the overthrown areas in the Amazon region have been used for
raising cattle. In order to change this scenario, the Federal Public
the Brazilian governmental institution that is in charge of defending
collectives and social rights (including the environment’s defense), has
taken measures to punish ranchers and fridge companies that do not obey
the environmental legislation. In 2009, several lawsuits were proposed
by MPF against persons and companies that caused 157,000 hectares of
deforestation in the Brazilian State of Pará (who was the champion of
deforestation over the past four years). In such lawsuits, MPF claimed
the amount of US$ 1 billion
to compensate damages caused by deforestation. The Brazilian judicial
courts have taken into account data from PRODES and DETER to validate
the deforestation and to convict those who have overthrown the forest.
This paper presents an overview of the succeeded actions undertaken by
MPF to mitigate Amazon’s deforestation, based on data provided by INPE’s
projects, as well as the brief history of the program “Legalized Meat”,
implemented by MPF to enhance the consumption of meat produced in farms
committed with the sustainable livestock.
First of all, it is important to establish the difference between the
area where the Amazon River flows and the area which is covered by the
Amazon forest. The Amazon River flows through seven Brazilian states:
Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, and Roraima.
However, the area where the Amazon Forest spreads, which is the object
of this paper, includes nine states: Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Maranhão,
Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantins. This area is known
as “Legal Amazon” and its size is approximately 5,217,423 km2,
which corresponds to 61% of the Brazilian territory.
During decades, the Amazon forest has been deforested
with the purpose of using its wood to attend the needs of industries in
Brazil and abroad. The method generally used for deforestation is really
aggressive: trees are not overthrown individually by the use of
chainsaws; instead, dozens of trees are overthrown simultaneously by the
use of trucks and huge chains. That is a brutal crime against
Nowadays livestock has been the greatest vector of
deforestation in Legal Amazon and it is responsible for one in each
eight hectares of forest overthrown worldwide.
According to scientists from local universities, deforestation has been
caused by the equation adopted by ranchers: one animal per hectare of
forest. The Brazilian Company for Agriculture and Livestock Research (EMBRAPA)
evaluated in US$ 400.00
the cost to overthrow the forest in order to obtain one hectare of
pasture area. However, to increase production in the same area – one
hectare - it would be needed to invest US$ 600.00. That is why ranchers
prefer to overthrow the forest instead of investing in research and
Brazil has the greatest herd of cattle in the world
and it is also the world’s greatest exporter of bull’s meat. The
Brazilian Government intends to duplicate its participation in the
global market of bull’s meat by 2018.
II. DECREE # 6,321/2007
The Brazilian Decree #6,321 as of December 21st, 2007
establishes the actions to be taken in order to prevent, survey, and
control deforestation in Legal Amazon.
According to Article 2, the Brazilian Ministry for the Environment shall
present, annually, a list of cities located in the Legal Amazon region
and their individual data regarding deforestation, based on information
provided by INPE. Such list will contain: (i) total area of
deforestation; (ii) total area of deforestation in the last three years;
and (iii) rate of deforestation in each of last five years.
Article 3 foresees the need of a registry for identifying rural
properties located in Legal Amazon. The purpose of this registry is to
gather data and information in order to survey, in a preventive way, new
deforestations. The Brazilian Government will use remote sensing
techniques to establish the geographical coordinates of the rural
properties, as well as on-site visits.
New deforestations will only be allowed in specific situation, such as
those mentioned in article 8: (i) activities related to national
security or sanitary protection; (ii) essential works for public
infrastructure services (transport, sanitation, and energy); (iii)
research activities and extraction of minerals, allowed by the competent
authority through the appropriate environmental license; (iv)
archaeological research; and (v) activities essential to the protection
of the integrity of native vegetation, such as fire-fighting, erosion
control, eradication of plagues and protection of native species of
trees, in accordance with the established by the competent environmental
Art. 14 §1 states that the Brazilian Government will provide economic
incentives to the municipalities whose annual rate of deforestation
drops below the limit set by the Ministry for the Environment.
The Brazilian Government is committed with the
sustainable development, so it has been taking measures to reduce
gradually and significantly the deforestation in Legal Amazon. Among
these measures, the Brazilian Government has restricted credits and
access to federal resources to states that are not committed to ending
III. PRODES DATA
According to PRODES most recent data,
from August 2010 to July 2011, the rate of deforestation in Legal Amazon
reached 6,418 km2. This result was obtained through the
analysis of 213 images of Landsat 5 and DMC Satellites.
The rate of deforestation in 2011 was distributed as follows: Acre = 280
km2; Amazonas = 502 km2; Amapá = 66 km2;
Maranhão = 396 km2; Mato Grosso = 1,120 km2; Pará
= 3,008 km2; Rondônia = 865 km2; Roraima = 141 km2;
and Tocantins = 40 km2.
This area of deforestation – 6,418 km2 -
represents the lowest one, since INPE started to assess it in 1988. In
that year, the rate of deforestation in Legal Amazon reached over
astonishing 20,000 km2. In the years 1995, 2003, and 2004 the
deforestation rates were over unbelievable 25,000 km2. The
rate of deforestation below 10,000 km2 only has been
registered over the past three years.
Given the space resolution of the satellites used by
PRODES Project, it considers as deforested areas those bigger than 6.25
hectares where the complete overthrown of the forest has occurred.
Taking into account this parameter, some farmers and ranchers have
deforested areas up to the limit of 6.25 hectares. It has been causing a
new kind of deforestation, where small points of degraded areas have
been detected. This attitude has called the attention of the Brazilian
authorities, which are intensifying actions of ground surveillance.
The rate of deforestation verified in 2011 indicates
a reduction of 8% in comparison with the rate registered in 2010, which
was 7,000 km2. This result confirms the tendency of reduction
registered since 2005.
IV. DETER DATA
On August 2nd, 2012, INPE unveiled the
latest DETER’s Project data.
According to it, from April to July 2012, 650.3 km2 of
deforested and degraded areas where identified in Legal Amazon. From
this amount 232.6 km2 occurred in April; 97.5 km2
in May; 107.5 km2 in June; and 212.7 km2 in July.
DETER is an alert system that detects deforestation
in Legal Amazon based on data from satellite with high frequency of
The Brazilian Institute for the Environment (IBAMA) has been using
DETER’s data to orientate surveillance as well as to coordinate
efficient ground actions against deforestation.
DETER uses images from Modis sensor of the Earth Satellite. This
satellite has 250 meters of space resolution which allows it to detect
deforested areas bigger than 25 hectares. The low resolution of the
sensor used by DETER is compensated by its quick response, which enables
authorities to take immediate measures to contain new deforestations.
DETER data indicates, in a fast way, areas where the forest was
completely overthrown as well as areas increasingly degraded. However,
the official data regarding the annual rate of deforestation in Legal
Amazon is provided by PRODES, because it uses better space resolution
images that allow identifying even small points of deforestation.
V. PROJECT REDD-PACC
INPE has also established cooperation with
international partners to develop other ways to control deforestation in
Legal Amazon. During a workshop held in São José dos Campos, SP, from
May 22nd to 24th, 2012, the Project REDD-PACC was
This research project aims at
developing technical know-how and capacity in designing efficient,
effective and environmentally relevant REDD+ strategies. It will act as
a global forum for sharing and improving global data on forests and
deforestation drivers, and developing high-quality methodologies for
REDD+ modeling as well as more general land-use planning.
The project partners include the coordinating partner
IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria),
COMIFAC (Commission des Forêts d'Afrique Centrale/Central African
Forests Commission), INPE (National Institute for Space Research,
Brazil), and UNEP-WCMC (United Nations Environment Program - World
Conservation Monitoring Centre).
REDD-PAC will build on the existing and complementary expertise of its
partner organizations. IIASA will contribute with its global modeling
capacity mainly through the GLOBIOM model. GLOBIOM is a global dynamic
partial equilibrium model of the land-use sector. By taking into account
the economic and environmental interactions between country-level
policies, the model can provide an assessment of regional REDD+
initiatives in a broader worldwide framework. INPE and COMIFAC will
contribute by providing high-resolution data on Brazil and countries
from the Congo Basin respectively. INPE will also deliver complementary
spatial results from their high-resolution models of deforestation.
Given its experience in the area of biodiversity indicators and the
coordination of the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators, WCMC will be leveraged
for the development of consistent national biodiversity indicators.
REDD-PAC partners will act as a nucleus of experts, but
collaborations from outside will be actively looked for. The modeling
part of the project will focus on the Central African and Brazilian
VI. LEGALIZED MEAT
In the seventies, thousand people from Northeast and
from the central region of Brazil moved to Legal Amazon to invest in
livestock. From that time to 2009, states and the Federal Government did
not have control on activities related to livestock. In the State of
Pará, where MPF first acted to combat illegalities on this sector, there
were no data about the size and location of farms where cattle was
raised. Information available about livestock came from data regarding
illegality: livestock used to be the sector where slave work where most
found, as well as the sector that stimulates deforestation. Due to the
poverty and lack of jobs in the region, some people agreed to work just
for food and a place for resting. They did not have salaries, social
rights, or access to medical cares. Many crimes occurred as a result of
battles by land and, also, because of the struggles between farmers and
Thanks to the actions of MPF, this scenario has been
changing since 2009. MPF has been spreading its action to other states,
such as Mato Grosso and Rondônia, with the purpose of preventing
deforestation and implementing a sustainable livestock.
Due to the actions undertaken by MPF, many fridge
companies have decided to buy meat only from legalized farms.
In 2009, MPF launched the “Legalized Meat” Program
with the purpose of avoiding the Legal Amazon’s deforestation as well as
to promote a sustainable livestock.
The expression “legalized meat” means that the commercialized meat comes
from legalized farms, which are those committed with the environmental
sustainability, social rights, and the legal occupation of the land.
Since 2010, the major Brazilian fridge companies have adopted the
guidelines from MPF to negotiate with their suppliers, especially in the
Legal Amazon states, where the lack of control about livestock was
causing more environmental damages.
This change of attitude has contributed to reduce
activities of the ranchers who usually raise cattle in deforested areas.
At the beginning, however, there were just few legalized farms in Legal
Amazon. The agreement between MPF and fridge companies took a long
period of discussions and adjustments before the consensus was reached.
In the State of Mato Grosso, the biggest producer of bull’s meat in
Brazil, despite the reduction of its deforested area, it still remains
in the second rank in those states that are responsible for
deforestation in Legal Amazon. Mato Grosso has around 115,000 rural
areas devoted to livestock and a 26 million bull’s herd.
In 2009, MPF initiated a negotiation with the three
major fridge companies established in the State of Mato Grosso and also
with the Brazilian Association Industry of Meat Exporters (ABIEC). The
discussions lasted over seven months, but they finally made a deal and a
Term of Conduct’s Adjustment was signed among the parties. The Term of
Conduct’s Adjustment is an extra-judicial document where the ranchers or
fridge companies are committed to specific conditions, with the purpose
of solving problems that they are causing or compensating damages that
they have already caused.
The “Legalized Meat” Program provides benefits for customers and
companies. People who buy legalized meat are contributing to avoid
deforestation, slave work, and illegal occupation of the land. On the
other hand, a fridge company that commercializes legalized meat does not
have its image associated with environmental crimes.
Since the surveillance over farms and animals has
increased, the quality of meat has also been improved, reducing the risk
of contamination for bacteria and other diseases, especially when the
meat is manipulated in poor sanitary conditions or in unauthorized
MPF has been restricting the activities of those
ranchers who are still reluctant to adopt new measures to commercialize
meat. According to the “Legalized Meat” Program, the farms shall be
monitored by satellite images and in those where deforestation is
detected, the rancher will not be allowed to commercialize his product.
Beyond that, the rancher will not have access to public resources and
credits for investments. The farm considered a source of deforestation
will not receive the electronic document for transportation of animals,
which is a kind of “cattle passport”. If the rancher does not have this
document, he is not able to commercialize the meat. Hence, the ranchers
who cause deforestation will be considered completely out of law.
The “Legalized Meat” Program also provides
environmental benefits, such as, preservation of Amazon’s biodiversity;
recuperation of degraded areas (those that has deforested will have to
plant native trees); utilization of technology to improve the production
of meat in deforested areas; reduction of risks of erosion through the
recuperation of degraded areas; and mitigation of climate problems
caused by deforestation (lack or excess of rain, low humidity of air,
MPF intends to foster the “Legalized Meat” Program beyond Legal Amazon
and implement it over the Brazilian territory.
VII. ACTIONS ADOPTED BY MPF IN THE STATE OF PARÁ
The Brazilian Constitution in its Article 127 states that MPF is “a
permanent institution, essential to the jurisdictional function of the
State, and its duty is to defend the judicial order, the democratic
regime and the inalienable social and individual interests”. Art.
129 (III) includes among the institutional functions of MPF the civil
investigation and public civil suit to protect public and social
property, the environment and other diffuse and collective interests.
In order to fulfill its constitutional obligations regarding the
environment’s protection, in June 2009, MPF and the Brazilian Institute
for the Environment (IBAMA) presented 20 lawsuits against ranchers that
had caused 157,000 hectares of deforestation in Legal Amazon.
In these lawsuits, the deforestation has been validated in accordance
with data of PRODES. Of course, data from PRODES may be argued in the
court. Persons or companies that have caused deforestation may state
that data are wrong and, in this case, an on-site visit may be
scheduled. In the case of Legal Amazon, Brazilian courts have been
accepting data from PRODES, because this Project has been the official
parameter established by the Brazilian Government to provide
deforestation assessment in Legal Amazon. So, when data from PRODES are
questioned, the burden of proof is on those who claim.
MPF and IBAMA claimed around US$ 1 million for covering damages caused
to environment. Fridge companies were considered
as responsible as the ranchers in
those lawsuits, because when they buy illegal meat, they are stimulating
the deforestation of the Amazon forest. At that time, 69 companies that
had bought illegal meat were notified as co-responsible for
On June 10th, 2009, the Grupo Pão de Açúcar, the Brazilian
biggest retail chain, informed MPF that it had suspended purchases of
bull meat from those fridge companies which were indicated as
responsible for deforestation in Legal Amazon.
Just after the lawsuits were proposed, representatives from
municipalities of the State of Pará contacted MPF to claim their losses
and prejudices and asked for a 60 day-period for companies adapting to
the new rules. MPF refused this proposal and stated that fridge
companies should sign individual Terms of Conduct’s Adjustment, where
they would assume the commitment of not buying meat from ranchers that
caused deforestation. Once the Term was signed, MPF would withdraw the
lawsuit against the company, but the claim would remain against the
ranchers or fridge companies that caused deforestation.
At the beginning of July 2009, within those 69 companies that were
notified, 35 of them suspended purchases of bull meat from ranchers and
fridge companies indicated by MPF as responsible for deforestation in
The purpose of MPF was to reach a deal with ranchers, because they were
those who initiate deforestation. The first measure proposed by
MPF is the geographical assessment of the rural areas, in order to
establish the correct location and size of a specific rural property.
These data would provide MPF with means to survey deforestation as well
as to identify the property where it has occurred. Ranchers would also
have to present a schedule for recuperating degraded areas; otherwise
they would not commercialize their products.
In that same year of 2009, the State of Pará, through its Secretary for
the Environment, establishes an Environmental Rural Registry (CAR), with
the purpose of identifying properties used for livestock. Since the
property is registered, the State is able to control new deforestations.
On September 2nd, 2009, MPF and fridge companies from the
State of Pará, signed an agreement where the companies assumed that,
from January 2010, they would only buy meat from farms registered in
On December 9th, 2009, the Brazilian Ministry for the
Agriculture and the State of Pará launched the Program “Boi Guardião”
(meaning the “Guardian Ox” Program) which would undertake, through
the use of satellite images, the remote sensing of farms located in that
region. Only the farms where new deforestations had not occurred would
be able to receive the document for animal traffic (GTA). Ranchers could
not commercialize their bulls if they did not have a GTA. Hence,
ranchers had to stop deforestation, otherwise their business would
Both CAR and GTA are based on information provided by satellite data.
VIII. THE G-AMAZÔNIA GROUP
During the Rio+20, held from June 13th
to 22nd, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, the Group for the
Integration of Legal Amazon (G-Amazônia), coordinated by the
Advocacy-General of the Union – AGU - presented 21 lawsuits against the
biggest responsible for deforestation in Legal Amazon.
G-Amazônia is claiming the amount of R$ 181,118,690.01
for covering damages against environment. Differently from those
lawsuits presented by MPF in 2009, the lawsuits proposed by G-Amazônia
are not restricted to deforestation caused by livestock. Actually, in
those lawsuits the purpose of deforestation – livestock, agriculture,
commerce of wood, etc – is not relevant, but only its effects and the
prejudice to the environment in Legal Amazon.
G-Amazônia was created by the Directive #23, as of June 16th,
2010, with the purpose of acting in the judicial defense of the public
policies for the environment’s protection in Legal Amazon.
The amount that has been claimed by G-Amazônia corresponds to penalties
from R$ 1 to R$ 10 million applied by IBAMA against persons that have
caused deforestation in Legal Amazon.
According to the lawsuits, persons that have caused deforestation shall
rebuild degraded areas. Furthermore, any tax incentives granted by the
Brazilian Government shall be suspended until the sites are fully
There are no conflicts between the functions of MPF and G-Amazônia: the
first – MPF – gets autonomy to sue anyone who is causing deforestation
in Legal Amazon or in other regions of the Brazilian territory; G-Amazônia
gets a specific geographical jurisdiction (Legal Amazon) and it acts
according to the public policies. However, in some cases, it is possible
that MPF and G-Amazônia act conjunctly, in order to protect the
environment in Legal Amazon.
MPF and IBAMA withdraw all of those 20 lawsuits
against ranchers and fridge companies presented in 2009, because in all
of them agreements were reached. Ranchers assumed the commitment of not
starting new deforestations, as well as reforesting degraded areas. They
also assumed the commitment to invest in research and technology for
sustainable livestock, instead of overthrowing the forest. On the other
hand, fridge companies assumed the commitment of buying meat only from
ranchers who have signed the Term of Conduct’s Adjustment proposed by
In the State of Pará, federal,
state and municipal authorities have
given total support to the actions undertaken by MPF. The registry of
rural properties in CAR helps the authorities to control new
deforestations and the document GTA avoids the commerce of animal growth
in degraded areas.
MPF has also been intensifying its actions in other
states of Legal Amazon, especially in Mato Grosso, the biggest producer
of bull meat in Brazil.
Taking into account the huge size of Legal Amazon, it
is not an easy task to control and avoid new deforestations. However,
thanks to the actions of MPF and to the use of satellite images for
deforestation assessment, the number of ranchers and fridge companies
that have adopted sustainable livestock has been increased. So, it can
be said that actions undertaken by MPF have reached their target.
MPF is an acronym for the Portuguese expression “Ministério
Considering the exchange rate of U$ 1.00 = R$ 2,00
Data from www.prpa.mpf.gov.br
Considering the exchange rate of U$
1.00 = R$ 2,00.
Data from www.prpa.mpf.gov.br
Around US 90 million, considering the exchange rate of
U$ 1.00 = R$ 2,00