Agricultural certification encourages compliance with environmental legislation by coffee farms in Brazil

The researchers analyzed data from more than 500 coffee farms in the Atlantic Rainforest and Cerrado regions, in 84 municipalities in the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais. Credit: Valter Campanato/Agência Brasi

Agricultural certification can act as an incentive for coffee growers and other farmers to comply with laws designed to protect the environment, promoting their alignment with current societal and market demands, although it does not necessarily contribute to reducing deforestation or the increase in natural regeneration of vegetation cover on agricultural properties, according to a study conducted in Brazil and reported in an article recently published in the journal Biological Conservation.

The authors of the article are researchers from the SOS Mata Atlântica Foundation of Brazil and the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (ESALQ-USP) and the Institute of Biosciences (IB-USP) of the University of São Paulo.

With nearly 40% of global production certified, coffee is an example of the growing use of certification seals to show that producers are committed to best practices in sustainability and environmental protection. However, statistical and methodological difficulties have prevented researchers from determining whether agriculture actually becomes more sustainable as a result of certification and exactly how environmental legislation affects biodiversity in the regions concerned.

“We did not observe a direct cause-and-effect relationship between certification and deforestation or natural regeneration, but certification can obviously serve as an additional incentive to comply with legislation, confirming that the synergy has beneficial effects,” said Francisco d’Albertas Gomes de Carvalho, first author of the article and currently a postdoctoral researcher in data science at the International Institute for Sustainability (IIS Rio). At the time of the study, he was affiliated with the Department of Ecology at IB-USP.

“In Brazil, certification can be a useful tool to enhance compliance with the Native Vegetation Protection Law, also known as the Forest Code, given the lack of interest among landowners and weak government enforcement,” he said.

The researchers began by analyzing data from IMAFLORA, Brazil’s main certification body, and SICAR, the national agri-environment registry, for 84 municipalities in the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, to obtain a list of 537 coffee farms in protected areas. areas classified as Atlantic. Rainforest (172 farms) and Cerrado, the savanna-like biome (362 farms). They then defined and calculated a set of characteristics that could influence the probability of certification, including property size, amount of natural vegetation cover, and rate of deforestation or reforestation, in order to arrive at a group of certified farms and non-certified controls.

They selected the first certification as the expiration date. “We analyzed changes in farms over the previous five years to see if the advent of certification had caused changes in factors related to public policy, such as reducing deforestation and increasing native plant cover,” said D’ Albertas. They concluded that it had not, in part because the certified properties analyzed in the study were in “consolidated” agricultural areas, where land use has not changed significantly over a long period of time.

“In these areas, where coffee has been produced for decades, we cannot talk about deforestation, especially compared to the scale of ongoing deforestation along the agricultural frontier in the Amazon or in parts of the Cerrado where soy plantations are expanding,” he said. he said.

Legislation and certification as allies

The researchers then refined the analysis to see if certified properties were more compliant with environmental legislation, finding only a general trend for increased compliance, with no significant difference between certified and non-certified farms.

Because many landowners begin complying with the law before applying for certification, the researchers also analyzed changes in land use in the three years prior to certification, finding a significant increase in native vegetation on certified farms only in areas of the Atlantic Rainforest , which mainly complied with the obligation to protect plant cover in Permanent Conservation Areas (APPs). The authors attribute this difference to more effective law enforcement and higher civil society awareness in the region, as well as more technical expertise in forest restoration.

More information:
Francisco d’Albertas et al, Agricultural certification as a complementary tool for compliance with environmental law, Biological Conservation (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2022.109847

Reference: Agricultural certification encourages environmental compliance by coffee farms in Brazil (2023, March 9) retrieved March 10, 2023 from -environmental-legislation.html

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