Some of Britain’s biggest food brands are imploring the government to adopt a tougher stance against deforestation. Ministers have proposed to ban produce sourced from illegally deforested land but the signatories say the law should apply to all deforestation, including areas where logging has occurred legally.
UK food brands demand ‘a level playing field’
21 UK food giants ranging from McDonald’s to Unilever and Tesco have authored a joint call to action demanding a tougher stance from the government concerning deforestation.
An open letter signed by each brand coincides with the closure of a consultation process on forest protection which would outlaw major firms from sourcing produce from illegally deforested land.
The letter warns that this does not go far enough, stating: “Restricting action to illegal deforestation would not achieve halting the loss of natural ecosystems, especially when governments have discretion to decide what is legal.“
The legislation as proposed would only impact larger firms, a loophole which would enable medium-scale companies to continue importing commodities sourced from agricultural land created by clearing forests.
The group want the government to expand its legislation to cover a greater range of operators, to eliminate the risk of smaller companies gaining an unfair advantage.
Explaining the need for action UK director of campaign group Mighty Earth, Robin Willoughby, said: “The proposed legislation would continue to allow rampant deforestation in hotspots such as Indonesia and Brazil.”
Why does it matter?
Environmental campaigners have long called for concerted government and industry action to tackle deforestation.
This acknowledges the futility of protecting UK landscapes while environmental destruction continues unabated elsewhere to feed global demand for beef, cocoa, soy, rubber and palm oil.
Willoughby adds: “With the Amazon in flames and forests being cut down at an alarming rate, nature doesn’t recognise the difference between legal and illegal deforestation.“
The changing mood music is set against the backdrop of hardening consumer attitudes against products connected to illicit deforestation, particularly in the Amazon.
A recent survey conducted by environmental group WWF found that 67% of British consumers would like to see their government do more to lead on the issue.
Fully 81% of respondents also desired greater transparency on where imported products come from.
Concerns have been mounting at a sharp escalation of land clearance across the Amazon this year, where much deforestation remains legal.