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Article

4 Mar 2022

Author:
The Guardian

Agribusiness firms sought to weaken EU anti-deforestation draft law, days after pledging to do more to protect forests at COP26

"Agribusiness giants tried to thwart EU deforestation plan after Cop26 pledge", 4 March 2022

Five of the world’s biggest agribusiness firms sought to weaken a draft EU law banning food imports linked to deforestation, eight days after pledging to accelerate their forest protection efforts at Cop26, documents seen by the Guardian show.

Forest protection hopes had been raised when the CEOs of 10 food companies with a combined revenue of nearly $500bn (£373bn) vowed to “accelerate sector-wide action” towards eliminating commodity-driven deforestation as the climate summit began on 2 November.

Agriculture is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the companies promised a supply chain reform plan to peg global heating to 1.5C by November 2022.

But on 10 November, trade associations representing five of the firms – ADM, Bunge, Cargill, LDC and Viterra – warned the EU’s green deal chief, Frans Timmermans, of soaring prices and food shortages if the EU proceeded with its own blueprint.

The European Commission’s plan, which is now being considered by EU ministers, would force firms to segregate commodities such as coffee, soy, beef or cocoa thought to be linked to deforestation, and prevent them from entering the EU market.

However, this is “technically and effectively not feasible”, according to the industry letter obtained by Greenpeace Unearthed and shared with the Guardian.

The EU proposal could cause “major price increases and problems of availability”, the letter says, while “reducing the offer for affordable food, increasing costs for farmers and EU-based industries, and amplifying risks of supply shortages for high-protein material”.

Instead, the three trade associations – Coceral, Fediol and Fefac – called for a mass balance system to monitor and certify “sustainable volumes” of commodities along supply chains.

Sini Eräjää, Greenpeace EU’s food and nature campaigner, said that the demands would have rendered the deforestation law “meaningless”...

...The Green MEP Anna Cavazzini told the Guardian: “It is very disappointing that some of the same companies who made pledges at Cop26 to act against deforestation are [asking] the European Commission to water down the legislative ambitions in this area. Real change can only happen if companies practice in private what they preach in public.”

The letter’s signatories insist they remain committed to curbing deforestation.

A Viterra spokesperson said the letter was intended “to create awareness of possible challenges that could negatively affect imports into Europe”.

Bunge, whose executive Jordi Costa currently holds the Fediol presidency, said that the missive was “part of an open consultation process that aims to support the design of an effective framework to achieve sustainable transformation”.

ADM, which holds the Fediol vice-presidency, said the problem was that the current EU proposal would “create a two-tier market, one for Europe and one for the rest of the world”.

Cargill, which is also represented on Fediol’s board, was working with industry associations to find the most effective way of eliminating deforestation in an “economically viable” way for farmers, said a spokesperson...

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