Brussels seeks to curb deforestation with food import ban 

As part of a landmark regulatory initiative, Brussels is looking to ban imports of foods from areas at risk of deforestation.

The EU’s commissioner for the environment and oceans, Virginijus Sinkevicius, has said the target would cover six agricultural products – beef, palm oil, coffee, cacao and timber. Collectively, these account for c.19% of commodity imports into the EU.

The draft anti-deforestation law is due to be published on 24 November. It has been designed to reduce the impact of European consumer demand on the world’s forests and indigenous communities. Companies would be forced to prove that products sold into the EU’s single market did not contribute to legal and illegal deforestation or forest degradation through agricultural use (based on activity dating from 31 December 2020). A failure to provide accurate information to national authorities via satellite images could result in fines worth up to 4% of a company’s annual turnover.

While some environmental activists have welcomed the proposed regulation, others have criticised the scope of the ban and have called for the inclusion of rubber. According to Current Biology, from 2003-17, 5m hectares of tropical forests were cleared for rubber plantations across mainland SE Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Sinkevicius stated that the targeted products were focused on the worst “embedded deforestation” and that the law would be updated regularly in future to take account of other deforestation patterns. Some MEPs have said that rubber may be included in negotiations. Approval for the draft law will be needed by EU governments and the European Parliament.


Adapted from an original article in the FT