Will Wal-Mart's Amazon Beef Ban Accelerate Deforestation?

cow silhouette photo

photo: Leonardo Pallotta via flickr

Hopefully you've gotten the message that expansion of beef cattle pastures are responsible for the majority of new deforestation in the Amazon. And hopefully have heard the good news that Brazil's largest supermarket chains, as well as the World Bank, have taken steps to help stop that. Well, it's all not so simple, according to a new article running over at Cool Green Science. Especially when you look at who Brazil's three main trading partners for beef are:
Author David Cleary points out that in 2008 Brazil's main trading partners for beef were Russia, Venezuela, and Iran. Yeah, not high on the list of nations where green conscience is growing.

Cleary says that simply banning trade in beef to prevent deforestation by certain stores doesn't do a lot when trade is global. Wal-Mart may not buy deforestation beef in Brazil, but it'll just be exported to places who don't give a frack about rainforest preservation.

A Ban Could Just Drive Producers to Other Markets
He goes on to argue that the danger in the approach of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth -- the former produced the report which led to Wal-Mart pledging to not buy beef from deforested areas -- is that,

it cuts off access to markets that could change the behavior of producers and influence them to stop deforesting, and throws them into the arms of the Russians. The supermarkets and consumers who shop in them would get that warm, self-satisfied feeling of having done something to stop deforestation, when in reality you could argue they’re actually accelerating it.

A More Nuanced Approach Needed, Long Term
Cleary concludes, not that the Greenpeace approach of "putting the fear of God" into people isn't important, but that once that fear has been created, it has to be followed by a more nuanced approach. You've made people aware that what they are eating (and what they are wearing, the Greenpeace report took aim at global shoe brands), but you have to follow through on creating a market for the more sustainable alternative.

More: What Should We Do About Beef from the Amazon?
Brazil Development Bank to Require Tagging to Stop Deforestation Beef
World Bank, Wal-Mart Take Stand Against Brazilian Deforestation Beef
New Cattle Pastures Far Bigger Problem Than Soy For Deforested Amazon

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