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article imageAgent Orange being used to clear Amazon

By Graeme McNaughton     Jul 6, 2011 in World
A chemical weapon from the Vietnam War-era that has been linked to deaths, injuries, and birth defects is now being used by Brazilian ranchers to clear the Amazonian rain forest to make way for farm land.
Last week, an investigation by IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, lead to the discovery of around four tons of Agent Orange. It's believed that the herbicide, which would be enough to wipe out 7500 acres of forest, was awaiting to be dispensed. The herbicide would have also killed any animals in the area, as well as contaminate groundwater.
An individual who is believed to be involved with using Agent Orange has been identified by IBAMA, and faces fines of over $1 million.
Officials knew something was up after satellite images showed portions of the Amazon showed signs of being cleared by Agent Orange. A flyby in a helicopter confirmed the suspicions raised by the satellites, with trees left gray and defoliated. It's believed that the herbicide was dispersed by an as-of-yet identified rancher in a plane, clearing space for farmland.
The aerial survey concluded that approximately 440 acres of rain forest has been cleared.
This is the first time that Agent Orange has been used in the clearance of the Amazon since 1999, although some officials have warned that people may not have to wait 12 years for it to be used again.
"They [deforesters] have changed their strategy because, in a short time, more areas of forest can be destroyed with herbicides," says Jerfferson Lobato of IBAMA. "Thus, they don't need to mobilize tree-cutting teams and can therefore bypass the supervision of IBAMA."
Agent Orange was originally developed to clear foliage on the battlefield during the Vietnam War. However, the herbicide showed to pose great risk to people and the environment. Some 12 million gallons of the herbicide was dispersed by the American military over the course of the war, resulting in 400,000 deaths and injuries, as well as over a half million birth defects.
Last month, a joint effort between Vietnam and the U.S. began to clean up damage caused by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
More about Amazon rainforest, Brazil, Agent orange, Toxic
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