SAO PAULO — Food production in Brazil, the world’s biggest beef and soybean exporter, accounted for 74% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, according to a study released by environmental group Climate Observatory.

Most emissions do not come directly from food production, but deforestation to convert native vegetation into farms and pastures is the main source of carbon released from Brazil into the atmosphere, the group found.

“This report should be read by agribusiness representatives and the government as a wake-up call,” said Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory.

“It demonstrates, beyond any doubt, that agribusiness will determine whether Brazil is a climate hero or villain.”

Of the 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gases emitted from Brazil in 2021 to make food, nearly 78% was associated with beef production, including emissions linked with deforestation for livestock farming and pollution from beef packing plants, the study found. 

Abiec, a lobby group of large beef producers in Brazil, did not have an immediate comment.

Climate Observatory’s calculations factored in deforestation and changes in land use, methane emissions from cow burps, as well as energy use and waste stemming from agricultural and industrial processes.

As the first study of its type, Climate Observatory did not provide historic figures for comparison.

Ranked alongside countries, Brazil’s beef industry alone would be the world’s seventh-largest greenhouse gas emitter, ahead of major economies such as Japan. — Reuters