January 16, 2019 / 8:44 PM / a month ago

Supermodel Gisele fires back at criticism from Brazil farm minister

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen on Wednesday rejected critiques by the country’s farm minister that questioned her knowledge about Brazil’s conservation efforts.

FILE PHOTO: Model Gisele Bundchen arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala (Met Gala) to celebrate the opening of “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz -/File Photo

Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias on Monday said that Bundchen should not be saying bad things about Brazil, for example by calling the country a deforester, without knowing the facts.

Bundchen, who is married to U.S. football star Tom Brady, in November blasted a proposal by President Jair Bolsonaro to merge the environment ministry with the agriculture ministry. That did not happen, but the Bolsonaro government has stripped Brazil’s environment ministry of oversight of areas such as water resources and eliminated its secretariat on climate change.

Bolsonaro, who counts on powerful farmers as part of his core supporters, has said he wants to end an “industry” of environmental fines, which activists say is a major tool for ensuring rules are followed. He has also suggested Brazil could exit the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“It surprised me to see my name mentioned in a negative way for defending and speaking in favor of the environment, because I’ve been supporting projects and involved in socio-environmental causes since 2006,” Bundchen wrote on Twitter.

“I’m always looking for knowledge through reading and contact with scientists, researchers, farmers, cooperative and environmental organizations.”

The post did not mention Dias or the agriculture ministry by name.

Dias responded by thanking Bundchen on Twitter for her message and saying they should work together to combat illegal deforestation.

In Monday’s radio broadcast, Dias said that Bundchen should be promoting Brazil’s sustainability efforts, arguing that the country’s preservation of two-thirds of its native vegetation is a major environmental accomplishment, rather than criticizing Brazil.

The minister later tweeted that she would soon invite Bundchen to be an ambassador for Brazil’s efforts to feed the world while preserving nature.

Bundchen did not indicate whether she had received an invitation or whether she would accept.

“I believe that agricultural production and environmental conservation need to go together, side by side,” she said in her posting.

Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Brad Brooks and Marguerita Choy

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