Brazil has become the world's number-two exporter of soy beans just behind the United States totaling 25.6 million tons in 2006/07. The product is one of the country's main sources of international income.
But as in Argentina and other countries soy expansion is becoming controversial in spite of the fact that the government expects the volume of production to keep expanding.
Deforestation, soil degradation, changes in rain patterns are some of the claims launched by those who oppose the expansion of soybean and the "soy-agriculture" while others argue that the business foments the "trans-nationalization" of land since it's the big financial groups which are responsible for the lion's share of the harvest.
However Brazil's Agriculture minister, Reinhold Stephanes, believes the country can become in the near future the world's leading exporter of soybeans, displacing the United States, forecasting exports of 50 million tons by 2017.
According to Roberto Rodrigues, head of Agronegócios from the São Paulo Federation of Industries, FIESP, soybean exports represented 11.3 billion US dollars in 2007 and this year's crop is estimated in a record 60 million tons.
Rodrigues describes the success of soybeans in Brazil as "a surprising boom," and recalls that in the sixties it was only planted in Rio Grande do Sul, in the Brazilian South and was all absorbed by the domestic demand. Soybeans were rotated with wheat.
The oil seed in the seventies moved to São Paulo and the southeast of Brazil where it was rotated with peanuts. Later it moved to Paraná, in the South, and in the 80s and 90s together with the "green revolution" it pushed into the midwest and the north, two sub Amazon regions.
The soybean expansion in Brazil was sponsored and promoted by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Enterprise. Scientists developed seeds which adapted to sub tropical and tropical climates as well as to soils next to the Amazon rainforest such as happens in the states of Mato Grosso and Goiás.
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