(Natural News) Brazilian beef farmers accused of illegal deforestation across legally protected land in the Amazon rainforest were still making their way into global supply chains, including those who served at least two of the world’s biggest meat companies – JBS and Marfrig.
Embargoes imposed by Brazil’s environment agency are intended to penalize landowners and allow illegally cleared forest areas to recover. Meat producers also made commitments not to buy cattle from protected land. JBS and other major Brazilian meat producers have made commitments not to buy cattle from protected land.
But in one case involving a farmer doing business with the companies, multiple fires were recorded on the embargoed land after earlier deforestation. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a news organization based in London, tracked the cattle supplied by the farmer implicated in the deforestation to abattoirs run by JBS and Marfrig.
These findings raised serious questions regarding the effectiveness of the embargo system and whether or not it undermines the “deforestation-free” claims of multinational meat companies as well as their international customers.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently reported that devastating fires on legally protected land in the Amazon rainforest have surged under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Satellite mapping of blazes and data on illegal deforestation show the number of major fires on embargoed rural land increased from 77 in 2018 – immediately before Bolsonaro took office – to 124 in 2020.
Bolsonaro has backed commercial exploitation in the Amazon rainforest since he took office in 2019. His administration made economic development a priority over environmental protection. (Related: Another climate concern debunked: Amazon rainforest trees found to be surprisingly drought resistant.)
Under Bolsonaro’s more economic-driven reign, the country’s environment agency issued fewer embargoes, sanctioning as little as 385 areas in the Amazon in 2020, compared to more than 2,500 in 2018. The number of fines issued for illegal burning and deforestation has also plummeted from an average of 4,600 a year between 2012 and 2018 to 2,600 a year in 2019 and 2020.
UK to ban businesses from selling items linked to illegal deforestation
In a bid to help combat the problem, the UK government is drawing up laws to ban businesses from selling items that use raw materials and ingredients linked to illegal deforestation abroad. JBS and Marfrig’s UK customers include Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl and other major supermarkets.
However, campaigners argued that the ban should include all deforestation, whether or not it is illegal under local laws. UK supermarkets and retailers also threatened to boycott products from Brazil due to a law proposed in the Brazilian parliament that could authorize further rainforest destruction.
Asda recently announced that it will stop using JBS Brazilian beef in its “newly sourced” canned goods. An Asda spokesperson said: “We have worked with our supplier to ensure that any newly sourced canned products do not contain any Brazilian beef from JBS by the end of 2021.”
Meanwhile, a Sainsbury’s spokesperson said that the company was “committed to sourcing sustainably and working together with Global Witness and the wider industry to tackle deforestation and preserve the essential ecosystems in the Amazon and Cerrado.”
Andrew Opie, the director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, of which Lidl is a member, said that its members “take every effort to ensure the products they sell have no links to deforestation and work closely with their suppliers to check this.”
Opie stressed that the companies need support in their efforts with the help of effective laws and enforcement to protect the forests from exploitation. He also criticized the recent bill that is under consideration in Brazil.
“The latest law proposed by the Brazilian government could allow further deforestation that could accelerate the damage being done to the Amazon’s fragile ecosystem. We urge the Brazilian government to withdraw the bill and take swift and concrete action to address the deforestation happening in its country.”
Learn more about how the Amazon rainforest impacts the rest of the world at Ecology.news.