Food companies in the UK, including McDonald’s, are urging the government to strengthen rules designed to protect tropical forests.
Ministers are drafting a new law banning large companies from using products from illegally deforested land.
However, companies say the law should apply to all deforestation, whether legal or illegal.
This is because the effect on climate and nature is the same whether trees fall legally or not.
The companies wrote a letter to the government on the closing day consultation on forest protection.
“Restricting illegal logging will not stop the loss of natural ecosystems, especially when governments have the discretion to decide what is legal,” he said.
The 21 signatories include Unilever, Tesco, Lidl, Nando’s, Nestle, convenience food maker Greencore and chicken producer Pilgrim’s Pride.
At present, the government’s plans refer only to large companies like these, but the signatories say that this would allow medium-sized enterprises to continue to import large quantities of goods from former forest areas.
They are pushing for a level playing field so that smaller operators do not gain a competitive advantage.
The letter represents a major breakthrough for environmental activists.
It has long been argued that it is pointless for the UK to protect its own landscape – such as the prime minister says he intends – whether they have contributed ingredients to food or feed such as beef, cocoa, soy, rubber and palm oil environmental disaster abroad.
Robin Willoughby, of the green group Mighty Earth, said: “The proposed legislation will continue to allow uncontrolled deforestation in places like Indonesia and Brazil (where much of the deforestation is legal).
“With the Amazon in flames and forests declining at an alarming rate, Nature does not recognize the difference between legal and illegal deforestation.”
A government spokesman agreed that expanding agriculture would not harm other ecosystems and promised that ministers would explore ways to avoid this “displacement” effect.
The spokesman said tackling illegal logging was the obvious place to start.
He added: “Our proposed approach is designed to tackle illegal deforestation, which accounts for almost 50% of deforestation worldwide but is close to 90% in basic biomass, including part of the Amazon.
“If there were current forest laws in Brazil, experts believe that forest cover would increase by 10%.”
Chris Brown, Sustainable Procurement Officer at Asda, said: “We applaud the government’s efforts to address deforestation so far.
“But the current plans will not do enough to protect fragile ecosystems.
“We need comprehensive reports above and below the supply chain, along with incentives for suppliers to move towards more environmentally responsible production.”
Has been growing dissatisfaction among consumers on products related to illegal deforestation, especially in the Amazon.
According to a recent poll by the environmental group WWF, 67% of British consumers say they want the government to do more to address the issue.
About 81% of respondents wanted more transparency about the origin of products imported into the United Kingdom.
Triggering these concerns are reports that deforestation in the Amazon has increased sharply this year.
Tree felling and land clearing, usually for agriculture, are estimated to be responsible for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
While some environmentalists have backed the letter to the government, others say the proposed targets are insufficient.
McDonald’s, for example, has set a deadline of 2030 to remove tropical forest products from its supply chain – a date critics say is too late.
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