In a move expected to slow the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil's three largest meat processors have signed on to a moratorium on purchasing cattle from recently logged land. Brazil is one of the world's leading greenhouse gas emitters.
Greenpeace report links consumer goods sold in U.S. to deforestation
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Deforestation accounts for about one-fifth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, according to United Nations figures. In Brazil, most of that is land cleared to make way for cattle.
The Brazilian government and the nation's three largest meat processors have announced an agreement intended to slow that trend. JBS, Bertin and Marfrig say that from now on they will not buy cattle raised in areas that are currently covered by rainforest.
The move follows a report by the environmental group Greenpeace that linked products sold by Nike, Timberland and other major brands in the U.S. and Europe to Amazon deforestation through the Brazilian meat processors. The companies buying meat and leather put pressure on the meat processors to agree to the moratorium, says Lindsey Allen of Greenpeace.
"They essentially told them, 'We're not willing to buy products from you if it means we're destroying the Amazon rainforest and contributing to climate change because of those forest-related emissions,'" she says.
Next steps are enforcing the agreement, and signing up more meat producers
The government and an independent observer will enforce the moratorium using satellite photography, aerial observation, and site visits.
JBS is the latest, and the largest, of the three major meatpackers to sign on. Allen says that means more than half of the Brazilian meat industry is now participating in the moratorium. But there are a lot of small companies that have not signed on, which collectively have a big impact. She says efforts to get them on board are continuing.
"We haven't saved the Amazon," she says. "But we've taken on a really significant driver that was continuing to expand into the Amazon," Allen says.
She adds that the long, hard process of implementation and enforcement is just beginning.