LONDON / BRAZIL, May 20 (Reuters) – British supermarkets have warned Brazil that they might have to boycott their products if lawmakers there issue controversial laws that could accelerate the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer are among more than 40 companies that sign open letters here urging the Brazilian national legislature to reject the proposed bill, supported by President Jair Bolsonaro.
The letter said the law would encourage “further land grabbing and widespread deforestation” that would endanger the survival of the Amazon, the aims of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, and the rights of indigenous peoples.
“We believe that it will also risk the ability of organizations like us to continue to source from Brazil in the future,” the letter said.
The chairman of Brazil’s lower house, Rodrigo Maia, had previously said he would introduce a bill on the Congress floor on Wednesday for a potential vote.
Settlers in the Brazilian Amazon for decades filed claims on public land without official government sanctions, often clearing forests to grow export crops such as soybeans or raising livestock.
Proposals before Congress – known as “land regularization” by the agricultural lobby and “land speculation laws” by environmentalists – will make it easier for those who have settled on historically public land to get action for their property, under certain circumstances.
Supporters of the bill say that legal land certification is an important step towards forcing owners to comply with environmental laws to limit deforestation in the Amazon.
Environmentalists say that the bill will effectively respect land speculators for massive illegal deforestation carried out in the past, while opening water gates for further clearing and settlement of public forest land.
Amazon Imazon research institute estimates that the bill will accelerate deforestation of 11,000-16,000 square kilometers (4,247-6,178 square miles).
After a heated debate in Brazil, the draft law was substantially diluted relative to the original, including the removal of provisions to allow newly occupied property to submit a request for action.
However, the signatories of the letter, which included agribusiness companies and investors such as the Swedish AP7 pension fund and Norwegian insurance company Storebrand, said they were “very concerned” about the proposed bill.
“We urge the Brazilian government to reconsider its stance and hope to continue working with partners in Brazil to show that economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive,” the letter said. (Reporting by Matt Green in London and Jake Spring in Brasilia; Additional reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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