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25 May 2021

Fiona Harvey, The Guardian

UK: Food companies & trade associations challenge deforestation rules in proposed Environment Bill

"Food brands challenge deforestation rules in UK environment bill", 25 May 2021

Trade associations representing leading food suppliers have questioned the need for new regulations to protect forests overseas, which will come before parliament in the environment bill on Wednesday.

The much-delayed bill will contain provisions to force UK-based companies to examine their supply chains in depth and ensure that they are free of links to land illegally deforested overseas.

It will be the first time such due diligence requirements have been introduced into UK law, and campaigners and some companies have welcomed the changes. Similar regulations are also planned in the EU.

However, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that companies and trade associations representing household brands have said that the requirements could be too onerous, raise costs, or may not work.

Cargill, the US-based commodity giant that has been linked to deforestation in the Amazon, told the government it would cost more: “There is a risk due diligence will not sufficiently overcome [issues with traceability of goods] without harming supply chain resilience and efficiency, with associated cost impacts.”

Some agriculture and food industry trade bodies also questioned the penalties proposed in the new bill, of fines on companies that contravene the requirements.

The Seed Crushers and Oil Processors Association (SCOPA), which represents soy and palm oil companies, said in its response: “We are not comfortable with the threat of fines levied against companies contravening this law. Unless such contraventions could be defined in some ways as deliberate or knowingly, the danger is companies could be penalised despite doing all in their power to comply.”...

...The AIC, which represents farm suppliers in the UK, also warned of raised costs and called on the government to “recognise and work with existing measures and initiatives in place before anything else”.

The Chilled Foods Association (CFA) also questioned whether due diligence was needed, saying it was “already done where possible”, and said that public reporting was “already challenged internally by many member companies”...