Highlights From "How One Country Sought to Combat the Harm of Burning Sugar Cane"

graphicOn March 2, 2022, ProPublica followed its exemplary reporting on the toxic, racist, outdated practice of pre-harvest sugar field burning of the past year with (1) a “pull no punches” fact-filled video on the contrasts between Brazil and the US when it comes to sugar production; and (2) a How One Country Sought to Combat the Harm of Burning Sugar Cane panel discussion that brought Brazilian green harvest (the alternative to pre-harvest burning) authorities together to tell it like it is.

Don’t miss the 10 minute “Brazil Shows You Can Harvest Sugar Cane Without Polluting the Air” videoReally, don’t miss it.

Can’t watch the whole panel discussion?  Here are some highlights: 

Dr. Helena Ribeiro, Professor of Environmental Health, University of Sao Paulo School of Public Health 

”...direct link between reductions of fires and reduction in respiratory disease admissions in hospitals.” (12:59) 

Dr. Christopher Holmes, Associate Professor of Meteorology, Florida State University 

“We estimate that there is probably at least 1 to 6 deaths per year as a result of sugarcane burning emissions in South Florida.” (17:38)

“From the area of sugarcane burning that’s burned each year we think there is about 5000 tons of particulate matter produced in these fires and that’s pretty close to the vehicle emissions from motor vehicles across the state of Florida but the sugar cane fires of course unlike the vehicles are concentrated in one small part of the state surrounding of few different communities.” (17:56) 

Dr. Raffaella Rossetto, Researcher, Instituto Agronômico de Campinas

“In Brazil there is nobody who thinks sugarcane burning is the best technique anymore, our agronomic engineers have shown us how good it is to use the new techniques, and whenever we are faced with challenges they help us see that the new method is much better.” (23:50)

“I truly believe yes, I know Agronomists in Florida. I think they are as good or better than Brazilian professionals and if Brazilians have managed to overcome the technical problems, I’m sure American agronomic engineers can also manage.” (36:36)

Antonio Luiz Queiroz, Technical Adviser, Companhia Ambiental do Estado de São Paulo (CETESB) 

“In Brazil, there is no such thing as an acquired right to pollute.” (33:25) 

“Health is one of the most important things we must look at when licensing an activity.” (34:33) 

“But you cannot compare any pollution from an industrial activity to burning hundreds and thousands of acres in free (open) space for us it's really a question of a healthy environment and land” (34:46)

“The situation in Florida is completely different, you do not have people who are going to lose jobs if you stop burning sugar cane, then you will have only the good part the agronomic benefits and you won't have the health risks, so I see no problem in this question about losing jobs in Florida.“ (55:42) 

“[In Brazil, there was] no such resistance from the industry.” (1:04:32)

Who was missing in action?


Although invited to join the discussion, none of these players accepted the invitation to participate:

  • Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried

  • Florida Crystals representative

  • US Sugar representative 

Now for the finale:  PLEASE TAKE ACTION