Ambience: MEPs travel to the Amazon to assess export-linked deforestation

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A delegation with three European parliamentarians arrived in Brazil on Thursday (14) bound for the state of Pará, where they are expected to meet with local communities, NGOs and researchers. The objective is to understand the impacts of Brazilian exports to the European Union on deforestation, climate, biodiversity and human rights.

The delegation is made up of the German Anna Cavazzini, vice-president of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Brazil and negotiator for the Verde party on the trade agreement with Mercosur; Frenchman Claude Gruffat, member of the delegation for relations with Mercosur; and Frenchwoman Michèle Rivasi, an environmental health expert and focal point for indigenous rights on the parliament’s development committee. They told the blog what they intend to evaluate during the visit.

“I hear that the trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur includes all the necessary precautions to protect the Amazon rainforest. But once we are in the field, we see that this is not true”, says MEP Claude Gruffat.

“NGOs and representatives of indigenous peoples are warning us. They ask us to come and see. So here we are to talk to civil society, politicians and companies, and then reach a conclusion on this agreement”, he adds.

In addition to the trade agreement with Mercosur, the European Parliament is due to vote in September on legislation aimed at banning imports linked to deforestation, requiring importing companies to audit that guarantee the origin of raw materials such as beef, soy, palm oil, coffee and wood.

The proposed law is seen by Europeans as a way to make the trade agreement viable, providing guarantees that the facilitation of trade with Mercosur will not lead to an increase in deforestation. Environmental concerns keep the matter blocked in the European Parliament.

On the other hand, progressive MEPs still raise concerns about the reduced focus of the new legislation.

The texts that came from the European Commission and the European Council suggest that the audits apply only to forests, leaving out non-forest ecosystems, as is the case of the Brazilian cerrado – where the cultivation of soy that arrives in Europe is concentrated.

MEP Michèle Rivasi says she has been lobbying parliament to include the protection of ecosystems other than forests, such as savannas, grasslands and swamps. “Otherwise, the European Union will continue to be complicit in the destruction of ecosystems valuable for biodiversity and in the fight against climate change”, she says.

“European soy imports are leading to the conversion of the Brazilian Cerrado, the most biodiverse savanna in the world,” says Rivasi.

“This mission will be an opportunity to bring back powerful testimonies and images. European texts must respond to reality”, he concludes.

The parliamentarian says that she also intends to meet with French companies such as Casino, Carrefour or Louis Dreyfus. Last year, the Casino group (owner of the Pão de Açúcar group in Brazil) was sued in the French court for selling meat from areas of deforestation.

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