Some leading food brands are challenging an environmental bill being discussed by the U.K. Parliament. The much-delayed bill proposes that U.K.-based food companies must examine the supply chains of their products to confirm that they are not linked to stolen forested land overseas. Failure to do so would result in penalties. If the bill is passed, it will be the first time such a law has been introduced in the U.K.

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While some companies have welcomed the move, several companies have come out in protests against the proposal. For instance, Cargill, the U.S.-based commodity giant, has come out claiming that it would cost more to perform such due diligence without having any significant benefits.

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“There is a risk due diligence will not sufficiently overcome [issues with traceability of goods] without harming supply chain resilience and efficiency, with associated cost impacts,” Cargill said in a statement.

The Seed Crushers and Oil Processors Association (SCOPA) has also come out to express its discomfort with the proposal. The association, which represents soy and palm oil companies, said that contravention to the law must be well-defined.

“We are not comfortable with the threat of fines levied against companies contravening this law,” SCOPA said, as reported by The Guardian. “Unless such contraventions could be defined in some ways as deliberate or knowingly, the danger is companies could be penalized despite doing all in their power to comply.”

Another association that has been linked with deforestation in Brazil, The International Meat Trade Association (IMTA), has also refused to offer its support for the proposal. When asked whether it should be illegal in the U.K. for companies to use forest-risk commodities, the association responded with “don’t know,” signaling a lack of interest in pursuing such a path. The association has also questioned the approach, saying that other avenues should be explored.

“Has consideration been given to an incentives-based approach rather than one focusing on fines?” IMTA said.

The lack of commitment by some leading food brands to end illegal forest land-grabbing has now come under sharp scrutiny.

“Big agribusinesses operating in the tropics claim to be serious about tackling deforestation, but their associations’ lukewarm response to this law is telling,” said Sam Lawson, founder of the campaign group Earthsight. “They want the government to trust them to do the right thing. But they have repeatedly shown they cannot be trusted. This law needs to be given teeth.”

While some brands are questioning the law and its implementation, many big brands including Unilever, Nestle and The British Retailer Consortium have welcomed the law, even calling for more stringent measures.

Via The Guardian

Image via Roya Ann Miller