From beef to chocolate – illegal deforestation is behind many foods from our daily lives

Nearly 70 percent of tropical forests cut down for livestock and crops such as soybeans and palm oil were illegally deforested between 2013 and 2019, according to a study. It warns of the impact on global efforts to combat climate change.

Illegal cutting is behind the loss of 4.5 million hectares of forests – an area the size of Denmark – on average each year in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa, according to a report by the US non-profit organization Trends.

“If we do not stop this illegal deforestation as a matter of urgency, we have no chance of overcoming the three crises facing humanity – climate change, biodiversity loss and emerging pandemics,” said Arthur Blundl, lead co-author and adviser to Forest Trends. The organization works on economic instruments for the protection of ecosystems.

The cultivation of palm oil in Indonesia and soybean and beef in Brazil, where about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest is located, are key drivers of illegal deforestation, the report said. The production of other agricultural products, such as cocoa used to make chocolate in Honduras and West Africa, and corn in Argentina, is also the cause of illegal deforestation.

In Indonesia, at least 81 percent of logging in forested land cleared for palm oil production is considered illegal, according to the report. In soybean-producing countries, such as Brazil, about 93 percent of the land vacated for growing crops used for cooking and animal feed is illegal. At the same time, 93 percent of deforestation for cocoa is illegal and 81 percent for beef.

The report’s authors describe deforestation as illegal deforestation, which violates national law. This is because loggers and companies do not receive permits from landowners or do not make environmental impact assessments. There are also cases of income evasion.

The risks of supply chains

Environmentalists and some lawmakers in the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom are calling for legislation that prevents products grown in illegally cleared land from falling on supermarket shelves.

In the United States, Democratic Sen. Brian Shatz of Hawaii and Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer have announced plans for a bill to ban U.S. imports of illegally deforested agricultural products.

“In my opinion, most American consumers would strongly agree that it is immoral, outdated and ridiculous for products offered on supermarket shelves to be traced back to illegally deforested land,” Blumenauer said.

The approach is modeled on Lacey’s 2008 law, passed in the United States, which bans the import of illegally traded wildlife, plants and timber. This, he said, has brought progress.

Britain plans to introduce similar legislation.

Deforestation has major implications for global climate change targets, as trees absorb about a third of the world’s warming carbon emissions. The carbon emitted by illegal logging for agriculture accounts for at least 41 percent of all tropical deforestation emissions from 2013 to 2019, the report said.

In addition, efforts to work with soybean producers and farmers to adopt a moratorium on deforestation need to be stepped up. “Illegal deforestation is a key driver of forest losses and poses a significant risk to supply chain companies and financial institutions that may inadvertently supply or finance illicit goods,” warns Justin Adams, executive director of Alinasa Tropical Forest, which operates. to exempt supply chains from being linked to deforestation.



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