World’s Largest Beef Company Agrees to New Restrictions in Amazon

The world’s largest producer of beef, JBS-Fribol, has agreed to stop buying cattle from ranches associated with illegal deforestation in the Amazon. After being accused by Brazilian officials of purchasing large quantities of cattle from illegally deforested land and facing $1.3 billion in fines, the company has signed agreements with prosecutors in eight states in the Amazon stating that it would not purchase beef from areas classified as conservation units or indigenous territories, or listed as off-limits by state environmental authorities. JBS-Fribol also said it would stop purchasing cattle from ranches accused of labor abuses, including slave labor. In exchange for promises to begin changing its operations by September 2012, the company will avoid the $1.3 billion in fines, state prosecutors said. Although hailed as an important step in efforts to slow deforestation in the Amazon, the agreement faces significant challenges, including corruption at the local level. Cattle production is the largest driver of deforestation in the Amazon, and a crackdown on the beef industry is one reason deforestation in the region has slowed in recent years.