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Fires are tearing through the world’s largest tropical rainforest.


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Brazil's Forest Fires Illuminate the Beef Industry

Brazil’s space research agency, INPE, said Wednesday the number of forest fires in Brazil has leapt 84% this year. Blazes across the Amazon rainforest are putting the focus on Brazil's beef industry and its contribution to deforestation. 

Smoke from the fires is sweeping out of the rainforest, one of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems, and over some of Brazil's cities, blanketing the skies and blackening water. Hospitals have reported an uptick in respiratory problems. 

Zoom out: Cattle ranching is responsible for the majority of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, which has increased 88% in the last year. Ranchers need to clear the forests because, well, cows prefer grass over anacondas. Environmental researchers say many of these fires were set by illegal loggers clearing up grazing acreage. 

Brazil's beef industry is huge. The country is the largest beef exporter in the world.

Its meat companies are trying to shed a poor reputation and wriggle into new markets, especially the U.S. 

Bottom line: The rise in forest fires puts pressure on Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, whose skepticism over environmental conservation could jeopardize a major trade deal with the EU. One European leader is already raising the alarm.

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