Supermarkets in the United Kingdom will have to stop selling products made from commodities whose production is linked to deforestation, under a new rule promulgated by the British government.
Under the rule from the UK’s Department for Food and Rural Affairs, large food retailers who sell products made from beef, soybeans, palm oil or other commodities that have been harvested in violation of local environmental law can be fined.
British supermarket chains have come under pressure from environmental activists like Greenpeace for selling beef from cattle that allegedly were raised on deforested land in Brazil. In announcing the rule, the Department for Food and Rural Affairs noted that deforestation accounts for up to 11% of global greenhouse gases, and that an estimated 90% of deforestation is done illegally.
The rule was criticized by environmentalists and others, who objected because local environmental laws are often inadequate, because small farmers in developing nations often have no choice but to work deforested land, and because there are no sanctions for food processors and other suppliers. Processors can simply establish a line of “sustainable” goods to sell to the UK and sell other lines to other regions, which “just shifts the problem into someone else’s backyard,” a Greenpeace UK spokesperson told Bloomberg.