Page last updated at 04:54 GMT, Saturday, 26 April 2008 05:54 UK

Plans to control access to Amazon

By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

A man harvests rubber at a rubber plantation in Xapuri, Brazil (file picture)
The Brazilian government is wary of bio-piracy

Brazil's Congress is to be asked to consider a law which could require foreign visitors and workers in the Amazon region to have a permit.

The legislation is designed to prevent outside interference and illegal use of the rainforest's resources.

Those in the region without a permit would be fined up to $60,000 (30,000).

But some scientists have warned that if passed the measure could have a negative impact on research, and would force experts to look elsewhere.

There has long been a suspicion in some sections of Brazilian society that not all the attention focused on the Amazon region is well motivated.

Brazil's National Justice Secretary Romeu Tuma now says a bill is to be sent to Congress requiring foreign visitors and workers in the area to have a permit.

We want to establish the Amazon as ours
Romeu Tuma

In an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Mr Tuma said Brazil wanted the world to visit the Amazon.

But he also said they wanted visitors to inform the government when they are coming, and what they were planning to do while they were there.

"We want to establish the Amazon as ours," he said.

In recent years the Brazilian government has become increasingly fearful of what it views as bio-piracy, or the appropriation of traditional or indigenous knowledge and biological resources, in what is the world's largest remaining rainforest.

The Brazilian government insists that it is not trying to criminalise foreigners visiting or working in the region, but simply trying to distinguish between the good and the bad.

The proposals would require overseas organisations, including religious groups and individuals, to seek authorisation to be in the area from both the justice and defence ministries.

Country profile: Brazil
22 Apr 08 |  Country profiles
Brazil raids Amazon timber mills
14 Feb 08 |  Americas
Pressures build on Amazon jungle
14 Jan 08 |  Americas
Brazil deforestation slows again
08 Dec 07 |  Americas

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