UK retailers have renewed their threat to stop buying products from Brazil as the South American country considers a new law, which conservationists say opens up 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 the private occupation of public land.
The plan was first attempted a year ago but abandoned due to an international backlash.
Critics argue such a law would legitimise previous illegal land grabs and pave the way for more forests to be burned and cleared for agriculture – damaging efforts to combat climate change and the rights of indigenous communities.
Research in the country released in December showed Brazil’s Amazon rainforest suffered its worst deforestation for 12 years during the 12 months to July 2020.
An area seven times the size of London was lost, according to the data, while the process is widely reported to be continuing at pace under the tenure of President Bolsonaro.
The letter, signed by nearly 40 major grocery chains and other food producers including Greggs, promised support for sustainable agriculture and the wider Brazilian economy if the country rejected the plan.
But it 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 noted that the targets to reduce these levels, as well as the enforcement budgets available to deliver them, are increasingly inadequate.
“It is therefore extremely concerning to see that the same measure we responded to last year is being put forward again as the legislative proposal… with potentially even greater threats to the Amazon than before.”
The letter warned: “If this or other measures that undermine these existing protections become law, we will have no choice but to reconsider our support and use of the Brazilian agricultural commodity supply chain.”
A vote is expected in the next few days.
Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF-UK, said: “We cannot fight the climate crisis without the Amazon, yet its future hangs in the balance as deforestation pushes it closer to the point of collapse.
“If passed, this vote in the Brazilian Congress will fuel further destruction and place greater risk on the lives of the people and wildlife who call it home.
“As global efforts to protect the Amazon threaten to be undermined, it’s encouraging to see major businesses sounding the alarm.”
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