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How to reduce consumption of forest risk products

The EU is one of the largest importers of products resulting from illegal deforestation. In 2012, the EU imported EUR 6 billion of soy, beef, leather and palm oil which were grown or reared on land illegally cleared of forests. Such consumption is unsustainable and many EU citizens are attempting to reduce their forest footprint by cutting out meat and eating local produce. But to solve the problem we need to go beyond changes to individual consumption patterns and look for EU policies that can bring consumption rates down to sustainable levels.

Halting illegal imports is a vital first step

One way to halt illegal imports is to directly address illegal land conversion through bilateral agreements between the EU and producer countries. This has already been shown to work with the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan to reduce illegal logging. This could be extended to cover all products at risk of causing forest destruction. It would encourage consumer country governments, producer country governments, producer companies and local peoples to work together to achieve legality and sustainability. All EU importers should be obliged to conduct strong due diligence to ensure that they are only importing legally sourced goods.

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EU Member State governments should also put in place strong public procurement policies to only buy from verified, legal sources; an example of this is already at work with the British Government having pledged to only use sustainably, legal palm oil.

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Closer to the consumer end, it’s time for policies to help purchasers understand the forest footprint of their food. The EU should develop requirements for producers to specify the feed source of meat, the origin of commodities, and methodologies to measure and declare the forest footprint of products. Taxes on particularly damaging products could also help, as would binding national targets on food waste, and clear rules on ‘best before’ and storage recommendation labels on food items.

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