Brazilian beef giant announces moratorium on rainforest beef

Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
August 13, 2009





Brazil's second-largest beef exporter, Bertin, announced it would establish a moratorium on buying cattle from farms involved in Amazon deforestation, reports Greenpeace.

The move comes after the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) withdrew a $90 million loan to Bertin following revelations in a Greenpeace report that the company was buying beef produced on illegally deforested lands. The report, which linked some of the world's most prominent brands to rainforest destruction in the Amazon, had an immediate impact, triggering a cascade of events.


Cattle in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
Days after the report was released, Brazil's biggest domestic beef buyers, supermarket chains Wal-Mart, Carrefour, and Pão de Açúcar, announced they would suspend contracts with suppliers found to be involved in Amazon deforestation. Investigators raided the offices of JBS, the world's largest beef processor, and other firms, arresting executives for corruption, fraud, and collusion. A Brazilian federal prosecutor filed a billion-dollar law suit against the cattle industry for environmental damage, warning that firms found to be marketing tainted meat will be subject to fines of 500 reais ($260) per kilo. Marfrig, the world's fourth largest beef trader, said it would institute a moratorium on buying cattle raised in newly deforested areas within the Brazilian Amazon. BNDES, the development bank that accounts for most financing for the agricultural sector in Brazil, announced it would reform its lending policies, making loans contingent on environmental performance. Shoemakers Adidas, Clarks, Nike, Geox and Timberland all unveiled new sourcing policies to ensure their products don't use leather produced from Amazon deforestation.

Bertin's new policy


Cattle herd in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
Bertin says within six months it will register and map all ranches which directly supply cattle to the company. By 2011 Bertin will implement a traceability system to track cattle from ranches to slaughterhouses and processing facilities to ensure that it is not buying from farms links to land conflict, slave labor, land grabbing, or otherwise illicit forest clearing.

"Environmental responsibility is increasingly relevant for a company like ours to maintain and enhance its position in Brazil and abroad," said Fernando Bertin, CEO of Bertin, S.A. "Today, we are making a fundamental step."

Greenpeace agrees.

"Given the sheer size of Bertin's operations, this commitment will have a significant impact on driving down Amazon deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Greenpeace will closely monitor the moratorium’s implementation to ensure its success," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon coordinator.

Remaining holdout

Now that Bertin and Marfrig have agreed to a moratorium on using cattle from illegally deforested areas, JBS-Friboi is the remaining holdout among Brazilian cattle industry majors. Greenpeace says that JBS has remained mum on the issue and has actually expanded operations in the Amazon in the wake of the scandal.

"JBS-Friboi must accept its responsibilities and stop fueling Amazon destruction. It needs to join these companies in protecting the rainforest now," said Adario.

Cattle's impact in the Amazon

Cattle ranching is overwhelmingly the biggest driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: the fate of nearly 80 percent of cleared rainforest land is to serve as forage for livestock. Since 2006 more than 38,600 square miles has been cleared for pasture, bringing the total area occupied by cattle ranches in the Brazilian Amazon to 214,000 square miles, an open space larger than France. The Brazilian Amazon, region consisting of rainforests and a biologically rich wooded grassland known as cerrado, is now home to more than 80 million head of cattle, up from 26.6 million in 1990 and equivalent to more than 85 percent of the total U. S. herd. Brazil is today the world’s largest exporter and producer of beef.

Brazilian cattle products end up in a wide array of consumer goods. Fresh beef is converted into burgers sold in fast-food restaurants and grocery stores across Brazil, Russia, Venezuela, and a number of other countries. Processed meat finds its way into canned products in Europe and America, while leather goes to China, Italy, Vietnam, and Hong Kong where it is used in shoes and apparel sold worldwide.





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CITATION:
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com (August 13, 2009).

Brazilian beef giant announces moratorium on rainforest beef.

http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0813-bertin_moratorium.html