By Rowenna Hoskin
Tesco has urged the UK government to order food companies to enforce a deforestation-free basis for all UK food.
This is in response to a recent Greenpeace campaign that has demanded that supermarkets cut ties with JBS, the largest meat company in the world. They have had allegations linking them to farms involved in Amazon deforestation.
Tesco has called out for the government to implement due diligence across the supply chain in order to combat deforestation. Germany is also considering implementing due diligence laws on supply chains. This would mean that a thorough investigation of where the food products have come from, on every step of their journey, is taken into account before they are sold.
According to a recent Greenpeace survey by YouGov, more than half of Britain would consider rejecting meat that had been linked to deforestation.
“Today we call for our government to mandate food companies, as part of its National Food strategy, to introduce effective due diligence across supply chains to make sure all food sold in the UK is deforestation-free,” says Tesco group chief executive, Dave Lewis. “we are making tangible progress, but we can’t solve this on our own.”
Since 2011, Tesco has blocked Brazilian meat sales due to their links to amazon deforestation, but they refuse to block JBS meat sales.
JBS is a member of SEDEX, a global platform that checks ethical, environmental and social practises within the company. JBS has said that it is committed to ending deforestation through it’s supply chain.
In Brazil, the rate of deforestation is rapidly increasing under the far right president Jair Bolsonaro, and Amazon fires have risen by 28% since last July. Brazil’s space research agency Inpe recorded 6,803 dire in the Amazon in the last month, up from 5,316 in July 2019. Environmental advocates blame the president for encouraging illegal loggers, miners and land speculators to destroy the forest with his vision of economic development.
The continued erosion of tree cover weakens the rainforest’s capabilities in stabilising the global climate. Scientists warn that the Amazon rainforest is dangerously close to becoming a savannah, after which its carbon absorbing capabilities will be almost entirely gone.
Anna Jones, the head of forests at Greenpeace says:
“Cattle ranching is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon. [It is] a big beating ecosystem that helps regulate the climate and plays a role in climate stability.”
JBS has been linked to deforesting farms five times over the past year, causing investor Nordea Asset Management to drop the company.
Following a Greenpeace exposé on the role of Brazilian meat companies on deforestation, in 2009 JBS – along with many other Brazilian meat companies – committed to being in total control of their meat suppliers by 2011.
According to Greenpeace, this commitment has not been honoured. They say that JBS “still slaughtering the Amazon” in a new report that was released on Wednesday.
“JBS continues to have a problem” continues the report, “it does not have full transparency.”
Greenpeace is also calling on Tesco to reduce its selling of meat by 50% by 2025.
In their YouGov poll, research says that 26% of respondents believe that supermarkets should sell less meat, while 55% would not consider buying meat from companies that also buy meat from farms in areas that were until recently a part of the Amazon.
Moy Park and Tulip are two farms owned by JBS that Tesco buys meat from. They produce Soya-reared pork and chickens, while these two farms have not been linked to Amazon beef or soya, 68% of the UK’s 3.2m tonnes of annual soya imports come from South America. One sixth of this is used by Tesco, that is 533 333.333 tonnes of Soy.
Around one fifth of the Soy exported to the EU from Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado regions, as well as at least 17% of beef is coming from land that has been deforested, according to a new study published in the Science journal.
Tesco promises that it will guarantee that its soya will come from verified zero deforestation areas by 2025.
“Setting fires to clear land for crops or grazing is destroying precious habitats like the Brazilian rainforest. It must stop. That’s why we support Greenpeace’s aim to prevent further Amazon deforestation,” says a spokesperson for Tesco.
The reasoning behind Tesco’s refusal to delist Moy Park and Tulip meat – who also supply Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, Sainsburys and Waitrose – is the impact it would have on jobs. Tesco says that delisting the farms “could lead to thousands of job losses, impact British farmers and ultimately compromise our ability to offer fresh British meat and chicken to our customers.”
“We recognise that the UK as a whole needs to reduce meat and dairy consumption.”
While Brazil has previously been praised for its slowing of deforestation, in recent years the rate of deforestation has soared. With expensive army operations to mitigate fires and deforestation, Brazil’s government has been criticised for being ineffective. The government is reluctant to even admit that it has a deforestation problem, with the foreign minister going as far as to dismiss climate science as part of a global Marxist plot.
In response to Greenpeace’s claims that JBS is sourcing cattle from farms on deforested land, a spokesperson said:
“All JBS subsidiary companies adhere to strict responsible procurement policies throughout their supply chains and share our dedication to eliminating deforestation for good.”
“We have been at the forefront of the industry in taking steps to improve supply chain traceability in Brazil. We are working closely with national and local government departments to develop solutions and system improvements around supply chain traceability and best agricultural practise to eradicate deforestation.”
“JBS will continue to evolve continuously in new initiatives and plans in the coming months to promote significant changes.”
While Tesco agrees with Greenpeace’s overall message, it will take more than just one supermarket to boycott deforested farms. It is only through the Government stepping in to create legislation that will prohibit any direct and indirect sourcing of produce from deforested farms. This step must be taken soon, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has now exceeded the three football fields a minute figure. July saw the deforestation of an area larger than Greater London, in one month.