British retailers have renewed their threat to stop buying products from Brazil as the South American country considers a new law, which conservationists say opens the Amazon to accelerated deforestation.
An open letter to politicians in the Brazilian National Congress, led by supermarket chains including Tesco and Sainsbury’s, urges them to reject the proposal to allow private occupation of public land.
The plan was first attempted a year ago, but abandoned due to international backlash.
Critics argue that such a law would legitimize previous illegal land grabs and pave the way for more forests to be burned and cleared for agriculture – nefarious efforts to fight climate change and the rights of indigenous communities.
Research in the country published in December showed that Brazil’s Amazon rainforest had suffered from worst deforestation in 12 years during the 12 months until July 2020.
According to the data, an area seven times the size of London has been lost, while the process is said to continue at a brisk pace under President Bolsonaro’s tenure.
The letter, signed by nearly 40 major grocery chains and other food producers, including Greggs, pledged support for sustainable agriculture and the wider Brazilian economy if the country rejects the plan.
But he said, “Over the past year we have seen a series of circumstances result in extremely high levels of Forest fires and deforestation in Brazil.
“At the same time, we have found that the targets for reducing these levels, as well as the application budgets available to achieve them, are increasingly inadequate.
“It is therefore extremely worrying that the same measure we responded to last year is again presented as the legislative proposal … with potentially even greater threats to the Amazon than before.”
The letter warned: “If this or others that undermine these existing protections become law, we will have no choice but to reconsider our support and use of the Brazilian agricultural supply chain.”
A vote is expected in the coming days.
Mike Barrett, Executive Director of Science and Conservation at WWF-UK, said: “We can’t tackle the climate crisis without the Amazon, but its future is at stake as deforestation pushes it closer. from the point of collapse.
“If passed, this vote in the Brazilian Congress will fuel further destruction and put more risk to the lives of the people and wildlife that live there.
“As global efforts to protect the Amazon threaten to be undermined, it is encouraging to see large companies sounding the alarm bells.”