Responding to allegations that major Brazilian cattle producers are responsible for illegal forest clearing in the Amazon, Brazil’s development bank BNDES will soon require processors to trace the origin of beef back to the ranch where it was produced in order to qualify for loans, reports Brazil’s Agencia Estado. The traceability program aims to ensure that cattle products do not come from illegally deforested land.
The new regulations triggered by an investigation launched last month by the environmental group Greenpeace. The report, titled Slaughtering the Amazon, linked illegal rainforest destruction to cattle traders that supply raw materials to some of the world’s most prominent consumer products companies.
Cattle and rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
The fallout from the report was immediate for the accused cattle companies. Brazil’s three largest supermarket chains, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Pão de Açúcar, last week announced they would suspend contracts with suppliers found to be involved in Amazon deforestation, while Bertin, the world’s largest beef processor, saw its $90 million loan from the International Finance Corporation withdrawn. Marfrig, the world’s fourth largest beef trader and one of the firms named in the report, said last week it will no longer buy cattle raised in newly deforested areas within the Brazilian Amazon. Meanwhile a Brazilian federal prosecutor has filed a billion dollar law suit against the cattle industry for environmental damage. Firms that market tainted meat may be subject to fines of 500 reais ($260) per kilo.
The new traceability program from BNDES will rely on ear tags (earrings) to track cattle from ranches to slaughterhouses. But Sergio Abranches, a well-known Brazilian environmental journalist and radio commentator, says that a system based on removable tags can still be gamed.
“The only credible and enforceable traceability tool is a chip,” he told mongabay.com via email. “Earrings give no guarantee against fraud.”
“The key to this agreement will be the supermarkets. If they are satisfied with ‘weak’ traceability methods, it will be greenwashing once again. If they force ‘strong’ traceability that would allow adequate third party verification, the result will be a true change of behavior that will affect the role of cattle as a deforestation agent in the Amazon.”
Conversion of rainforest to cattle pasture presently accounts for roughly 80 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. More than 38,600 square miles has been cleared for pasture since 1996, bringing the total area occupied by cattle ranches in the Brazilian Amazon to 214,000 square miles, an area larger than France. The legal Amazon, an region consisting of rainforests and a biologically-rich grassland known as cerrado, is now home to more than 80 million head of cattle, more than 85 percent of the total U.S. herd.
(06/29/2009) Tesco, one of Europe’s largest retailers, has sent a response to the British newspaper The Guardian in light of the paper’s coverage of recent allegations that the chain store sells beef and leather products that caused deforestation of the Amazon.
(06/25/2009) Marfrig, the world’s fourth largest beef trader, will no longer buy cattle raised in newly deforested areas within the Brazilian Amazon, reports Greenpeace. The announcement is a direct response to Greenpeace’s Slaughtering the Amazon report, which linked illegal Amazon forest clearing to the cattle producers that supply raw materials to some of the world’s most prominent consumer products companies. Marfrig was one several cattle firms named in the investigative report.
(06/17/2009) JBS, the world’s largest beef processor, is under investigation by Brazil’s federal prosecutor’s office for corruption, reports Reuters.
(06/13/2009) The Work Bank’s private lending arm has withdrawn a $90 million loan to Brazilian cattle giant Bertin, following Greenpeace’s release of a report linking Bertin to illegal deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, report environmental groups, Friends of the Earth-Brazil and Greenpeace. The loan, granted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in March 2007, was to expand Bertin’s meat-processing in the Brazilian Amazon. At the time, the IFC promoted the loan as a way to promote environmentally responsible beef production in the Amazon, although environmental groups — including Friends of the Earth-Brazil and Greenpeace — criticized the move.
(06/12/2009) Brazil’s three largest supermarket chains, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Pão de Açúcar, will suspend contracts with suppliers found to be involved in Amazon deforestation, reports O Globo. The decision, announced at a meeting of the Brazilian Association of Supermarkets (Abras) this week, comes less than two weeks after Greenpeace’s exposé of the Amazon cattle industry. The report, titled Slaughtering the Amazon, linked some of the world’s most prominent brands — including Nike, Toyota, Carrefour, Wal-Mart, and Johnson & Johnson, among dozens of others — to destruction of the Amazon rainforest for cattle pasture.
(06/01/2009) Major international companies are unwittingly driving the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest through their purchases of leather, beef and other products supplied from the Brazil cattle industry, alleges a new report from Greenpeace. The report, Slaughtering the Amazon, is based on a three-year undercover investigation of the Brazilian cattle industry, which accounts for 80 percent of Amazon deforestation and roughly 14 percent of the world’s annual forest loss. Greenpeace found that Brazilian beef companies are important suppliers of raw materials used by leading global brands, including Adidas/Reebok, Nike, Carrefour, Eurostar, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Toyota, Honda, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, IKEA, Kraft, Tesco and Wal-Mart, among others.
(02/16/2009) Nearly 80 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon results from cattle ranching, according to a new report by Greenpeace. The finding confirms what Amazon researchers have long known – that Brazil’s rise to become the world’s largest exporter of beef has come at the expense of Earth’s biggest rainforest. More than 38,600 square miles has been cleared for pasture since 1996, bringing the total area occupied by cattle ranches in the Brazilian Amazon to 214,000 square miles, an area larger than France. The legal Amazon, an region consisting of rainforests and a biologically-rich grassland known as cerrado, is now home to more than 80 million head of cattle. For comparison, the entire U.S. herd was 96 million in 2008.