what will change

Drink your coffee confident you’re not contributing to deforestation on the other side of the world: The EU signed an unprecedented deal on Tuesday to ban imports of products if they contribute to deforestation.

The subject of the destruction of primeval forests in South America or Borneo may seem far-fetched to many Europeans. According to a WWF report dated April 2021, the European Union is responsible for 16% of the deforestation associated with international trade through its own imports. According to the NGO, this makes the EU the second largest deforester in the world after China due to imported deforestation.

The most harmful products are soy and palm oil

But what exactly is harmful to forests? First of all, many of the foods we consume daily such as cocoa, coffee, meat – mainly beef – soy or even palm oil to feed these animals. The text agreed by the European Parliament and the Member States also covers the import of rubber, wood, leather, printing paper or coal. And therefore, all additional products – furniture, clothes, books… – are associated with them.

“It is the coffee for breakfast, the chocolate we eat, the coal in our barbecues, the paper in our books. This is radical,” concluded Pascal Canfin, a member of the European Parliament and chairman of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament.

Not all deforestation products imported into Europe contribute to deforestation in the same way. According to a WWF report published in April 2021 entitled “When Europeans consume, forests eat themselves”, soy was responsible for 31% of deforestation imported from the EU between 2005 and 2017. But it should not be consumed directly by those who live there: about 80% of soybeans exported to Europe are used to feed livestock, mainly chickens – laying hens or broilers, as well as pigs and cows.

In the EU, palm oil used in mass-processed products (cakes, crisps, etc.) and hygiene products (shower gels, make-up, etc.) accounted for 24% of deforestation, mainly imported from Malaysian and Indonesian forests. Next comes beef (10% of imported deforestation, mainly in Brazil), wood products (8%), cocoa (6%, mainly in Africa) and coffee (5%).

Maize (and its derivatives), on the other hand, will not be affected by import bans, even if its production requires the destruction of forests.

Large groups will have to follow suit

So many products that major European groups will no longer be able to import into the EU after December 2020 if they come from deforested lands. Importing companies responsible for the supply chain will have to prove the traceability of products through geolocation data. should be correlated with satellite photographs. They are given 18 months to ensure that their imported coffee, firewood, beef and even soy and palm oil products are not grown and farmed in favor of deforestation.

Recently, several large groups have been singled out by NGOs for being accused of complicity in deforestation in South America. In early September, a report by the non-governmental organization Mighty Earth explained that Carrefour, which controls 25% of the food distribution market in Brazil, buys its chicken from “meat and soy traders with destructive practices” and regularly points the finger. its deforestation actions.

Eleven NGOs have also sued Casino, accusing it of participating in Amazon deforestation by selling beef produced on illegally reclaimed land in Brazil and Colombia.

The Cerrado, a major beef and soy producer, is not protected

Acknowledging the “historic” progress in forest protection, a number of NGOs condemned the “imperfect” text that allows the continued import of certain products as a result of deforestation. Indeed, the European Parliament and NGOs have called for the scope of the text to be extended to other threatened forested ecosystems such as savannas and grasslands, particularly the Cerrado, which extends into Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. . But the agreement reached between the MEPs and the States finally stipulates that the extension to these “other forested areas” should be considered no later than one year after the entry into force of the text.

However, in 2019, 14% of EU imported soybeans and 26% of beef came from the Cerrado in Brazil. “This ecosystem, a treasure trove of biodiversity and half the size of the EU, is being largely destroyed by the agribusiness industry to grow soya beans imported into Europe,” Greenpeace criticized on Tuesday. Thus, these foods will be able to continue to be imported into member countries despite the harmful effects of their cultivation and reproduction on biodiversity, the climate and the local population. Nor are the peat bogs of Sumatra and Borneo or the mangroves of Indonesia, which have unique biodiversity, protected by the text.

The text may also not change for the local population of the areas affected by deforestation. Of course, importers “will have to check compliance with the legislation of the country of production in terms of human rights.” But “a concluded agreement requires respect for the right to prior, free and informed consent of local populations only if the producing country guarantees this right,” Greenpeace says. “The current text limits the scope of human rights to national laws: this means that unless certain rights of local communities are reflected in national legislation, they will not be protected by European law,” WWF said in a statement on Tuesday.

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