UK supermarkets threaten to boycott Brazilian products over proposed forest law

British supermarkets have warned Brazil that they might boycott its products if Brazilian lawmakers pass a controversial bill that could ramp up destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
calendar icon 20 May 2020
clock icon 2 minute read

Reuters reports that Sainsburys, Tesco, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer are among more than 40 companies to sign an open letter urging Brazil’s legislature to reject the proposed bill, backed by President Jair Bolsonaro, that could enable faster destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

The letter says the proposed law would encourage, “further land grabbing and widespread deforestation” which could put the survival of the Amazon in jeopardy, endanger the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and erode the rights of indigenous communities.

"We believe that it would also put at risk the ability of organisations such as ours to continue sourcing from Brazil in the future," the letter said.

Brazil's lower house speaker, Rodrigo Maia, earlier said he would introduce the bill on the floor of Congress on Wednesday for a potential vote.

Settlers in the Brazilian Amazon have for decades laid claim to public land without official government sanction, often clearing forest to grow export crops such as soy or raise cattle – key agricultural exports for Brazil.

The proposal before Congress – known as "land regularisation" by the agriculture lobby and "the land speculation law" by environmentalists – will make it easier for those that settled on public land historically to obtain deeds for their properties, under certain circumstances.

The bill’s supporters say that extending legal titles to the land would be an essential step in forcing owners to comply with environmental laws to limit deforestation in the Amazon.

Conversely, environmentalists say that the proposal would essentially reward land speculators for massive illegal deforestation carried out in the past, while making future clearing and settlement of public forest land easier.

Amazon research institute Imazon estimates the bill would hasten the deforestation of 11,000-16,000 square kilometres (4,247-6,178 square miles).

After intense debate in Brazil, the bill has been substantially diluted relative to the original, including removal of a provision to allow more recently occupied properties to apply for deeds.

Nevertheless, signatories to the letter, which included agribusiness companies and investors such as Sweden's AP7 pension fund and Norwegian insurer Storebrand, said they were "deeply concerned" about the proposed bill.

"We urge the Brazilian government to reconsider its stance and hope to continue working with partners in Brazil to demonstrate that economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive," the letter said.

Read more about this story on Reuters.

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