The deforestation of the Brazilian rain forest was covered in the course on Brazilian history which I took at SUNY Stony Brook (NY) in 1978. Much has changed since then — and it hasn’t been for the better. Greed, denial, and consumer indifference are destroying the rain forest. — wfw
Devouring the rain forest – By Terrence McCoy and Júlia Ledur, The Washington Post
Cattle ranching, responsible for the great majority of deforestation in the Amazon, is pushing the forest to the edge of what scientists warn could be a vast and irreversible dieback that claims much of the biome. Despite agreement that change is necessary to avert disaster, despite attempts at reform, despite the resources of Brazil’s federal government and powerful beef companies, the destruction continues.
But the ongoing failure to protect the world’s largest rainforest from rapacious cattle ranching is no longer Brazil’s alone, a Washington Post investigation shows. It is now shared by the United States — and the American consumer.
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In the two years since Washington lifted a moratorium that was imposed on raw Brazilian beef over food safety concerns, the United States has grown to become its second-biggest buyer. The country bought more than 320 million pounds of Brazilian beef last year — and is on pace to purchase nearly twice as much this year. The biggest supplier is the beef behemoth JBS, whose fleet of brands stock some of America’s major retail chains and businesses: Kroger, Goya Foods, Albertsons (the parent company of Safeway, Jewel-Osco and Vons).
JBS, the world’s largest beef producer, has repeatedly been accused by environmentalists of buying cattle raised on illegally deforested land. Greenpeace first alleged such ties in a 2009 report. In 2017, Brazil’s environmental law enforcement agency, Ibama, fined the company what was then more than $7.5 million, alleging that two of its Amazon meatpacking plants had purchased nearly 50,000 such animals. In October, federal prosecutors focusing on deforestation alleged widespread “irregularities” in the company’s direct supply chain from January 2018 to June 2019 in Pará state.A truck with JBS signage drives near the company’s beef production facility in Greeley, Colo., in June 2021. JBS is the world’s largest beef producer. (Michael Ciaglo/Bloomberg News)
But in a forest where some beef producers still don’t track cattle origins, and in a country where no law specifically prohibits the purchase of cattle from illegally deforested land, JBS considers itself one of the good guys. It says it has prioritized the environment and blocked more than 14,000 cattle ranches that didn’t comply with company standards. It has signed agreements with environmentalists and federal prosecutors promising not to purchase cattle from ranches that were illegally deforested. It publishes the names of the ranches from which it purchases cattle.
None of it has been enough.