A group of European companies called on the Brazilian Congress on Wednesday to drop a bill seen as encouraging deforestation in the Amazon.
If it or similar legislation passes, “we will have no choice but to reconsider our support and use of the Brazilian agricultural supply chain,” the 36 companies wrote in an open letter.
Lawmakers withdrew a similar plan last year following threats to boycott several companies, including some of the signatories to Wednesday’s letter.
What did the companies say?
The group of retailers and investors said Brazil’s efforts to protect the environment were “increasingly insufficient”, with the controversial bill potentially posing greater threats to the Amazon.
“Our door remains open to work with Brazilian partners to support the development of sustainable land management and agriculture,” the letter read.
“We are willing partners to enable this in a way that supports economic development while respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities.”
The signatories included retail giants such as German supermarkets Aldi and Lidl as well as UK companies Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
What is the controversial bill?
The bill is an extension of a 2009 law that granted land rights to so-called “land grabbers” living in the Amazon rainforest.
Critics of the proposed legislation have warned that it would undermine efforts to fight deforestation by rewarding squatters in the Amazon.
On the flip side, supporters argue that the bill could force these properties to comply with deforestation laws by bringing settlers into the legal system.
Rainforest land grabbers – who occupy property illegally – typically cut areas for agricultural purposes.
Is Brazil sending mixed signals?
Wednesday’s letter also pointed out that the plan was “contrary to the narrative and rhetoric” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro showed at a recent summit with US President Joe Biden.
During the meeting, Bolsonaro pledged to increase the budget for environmental law enforcement and end illegal deforestation by 2030.
However, environmentalists are skeptical. The far-right leader has a record of weakening environmental regulations, including measures to tackle illegal logging that previous administrations had put in place.
Bolsonaro has also repeatedly pledged to increase agricultural activity in the region.