Washington DC— Senator Brian Schatz revealed plans today to introduce legislation that would put in place import requirements for agricultural commodities associated with illegal deforestation. The bill would oblige companies bringing commodities such as beef, leather, palm oil, soy, and cocoa into the U.S. to know where these goods originated and to ensure they were produced in compliance with laws of the country where they were grown or raised. Around half of deforestation in the tropics, where most deforestation is occurring, is the result of illegal clearance for commercial agriculture.
The announcement comes as EIA and 28 other environmental, human rights, and faith-based organizations released an open letter calling on the administration and Congress to put in place ambitious measures to tackle global deforestation, including import rules to prevent commodities produced on illegally deforested land from entering the U.S. market. The U.S. is a major importer of agricultural products that have been linked to deforestation and human rights abuses such as invasions of indigenous land and forced or child labor.
“American markets should not be contributing to deforestation, environmental crime and human rights violations around the world, but they are, and voluntary corporate commitments have not done enough to stop it,” said Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director of EIA. “The legislation outlined by Senator Schatz would be a crucial step in ensuring companies know their supply chains and do not trade in illegally produced commodities. This is not only good for the world’s forests and the people who rely upon them, it also provides responsible businesses at home and abroad with a fair playing field. We urge the Biden-Harris administration and Congress to get behind this groundbreaking initiative.”
Deforestation plays a major role in climate change, biodiversity loss, pandemic risks, and human rights violations. In the last few months alone, government, media and NGO investigations have revealed how U.S. commodity supply chains are exposed to deforestation and human rights abuses around the world, including slave labor conditions and Amazon deforestation in cattle production in Brazil, violent invasions of indigenous land by ranchers in Nicaragua, child labor and deforestation in cocoa farms in West Africa, and forced labor on palm oil plantations in Malaysia.