The pulp and paper sector’s proposal for Rio+20
The challenge of supplying the planet, which will be part of the discussions at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, will also create opportunities in many countries translated into the pursuit of solutions to produce more without depleting raw-material resources. In order to adapt to this new world context, the sector will have to improve land, water and energy use as well as the use of other resources, reconciling the sustainable food, biofuels, fibers and forests production (the so-called four F’s – Food, Fuel, Fiber and Forests).
Biotechnology has stood out as an alternative to meet these demands and simultaneously to reduce environmental externalities in addition to producing social and economic benefits. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agro-Biotech Application (Isaaa), biotechnology is the agricultural technology that has been most widely adopted in the last 10 years, now affecting a planted area 94 times greater than in 1996 and currently being used in 29 countries. The world boasts more than 160 million hectares with genetically modified plants. Brazil has taken a leading role in this world model, ranking second in terms of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) worldwide, equivalent to more than 30 million hectares.
According to the consulting firm Ceteris, the quantifiable and cumulative benefits of biotechnology from 1996 to 2010 include: an increase in the volume and value of production, which has reached US$ 78 billion; improvements to the environment by avoiding the use of 443 million kg of the active ingredient in pesticides; the conservation of biodiversity by avoiding an additional 91 million hectares of land being turned over to agriculture; the reduction of poverty through programs for 15 million small farmers; a 19 million tons reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 alone.
Arboreal biotechnology is still in its testing phase and is being developed by internationally renowned scholars, scientists and research institutes. Despite its potential benefits to all three pillars of sustainability (social, economic and environmental), the technology has not yet been approved or used on a commercial scale.
The planted forest, pulp and paper sector stresses the contributions of biotechnology in forest plantations under the following topics:
- Encourages new investments
- Reduces production costs and risk of losses
- Increases competition
- Pest and disease control
- Potential increase of wood productivity
- Lower consumption of natural resources
- Incentive to implement agroforestry systems
- Meets the demands generated by the growth of the global population
- Education and professional training
- Job creation and income generation
Multiple forest use must be highlighted for the industries that use forestry base products. Based on UN estimate that global population will reach 8 billion people in 2025, there will be an increase of the use of natural resources, which may create difficulties for sustainable development. Therefore, the use of biotechnology may facilitate the understanding of the demand for forestry products in the following industries:
- Pulp & Paper
- Medical Drugs
- Personal Hygiene
Given this outlook, Brazil’s planted forest, pulp and paper sector defends the inclusion of the topic of biotechnology in the Rio+20 agenda. Brazil has much to contribute to this debate given its recognized excellence in forest management and the fact that it is a large agricultural producer with available lands to meet a significant portion of world demand for food, fuels and forest products.
The objective of this proposal is that the conference participants are familiar with the scientific advances resulting from studies and researches into the application of biotechnology as an essential tool to meet these future demands. Furthermore, it is crucial that the risks and opportunities of biotechnology use be widely and jointly evaluated within the context of the proposals for sustainable development.
The concept of sustainable development is dynamic, constantly evolving and will never stand still. Therefore, Rio+20 is the ideal stage to discuss this topic, which is currently approached as a stand-alone topic, thus helping facilitate discussion and promote multilateral actions with common objectives.
As such, we hope that governments and organizations that take part at Rio+20 Conference will include a debate on biotechnology in their agendas as one of the paths to sustainable development.
It is very important that biotechnology is also seen as an ally to implement global solutions for the upcoming years, that resonate with the Brazilian government’s proposals for the Conference, such as eradicating extreme poverty, valuating forests in a country’s economy, strengthening multilateralism and disseminating technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), protecting natural resources (and payment for environmental services).