Scientists accuse 'sustainable' corporation of Amazon forest destruction

by Search Gate staff. Published Sun 08 Feb 2016 15:26
Scientists query clearance of 2,000 hectares of rainforest
Scientists query clearance of 2,000 hectares of rainforest

A corporation that aims to be the world’s biggest supplier of ‘sustainable’ cacao—the main ingredient in chocolate—has been accused by leading scientists of destroying large expanses of biodiversity-rich forest in Peru.

The Company, United Cacao, previously raised 10 million pounds on the London Stock Exchange, and is now hoping to raise additional funds on the Lima Stock Exchange in Peru to expand its operations in the Peruvian Amazon.

Scientists associated with ALERT—the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers & Thinkers, an independent scientific organization—caution investors that United Cacao’s products may be far from environmentally sustainable, and that they should exercise caution before investing in the company or its Peruvian subsidiary, Cacao del Peru Norte.

“This company has its roots in Southeast Asia’s palm oil industry, which has been a huge driver of forest destruction,” said ALERT director William Laurance, a professor at James Cook University in Australia. Laurance has conducted research in the Amazon region for nearly 20 years.

“World-class scientists at the Carnegie Institute at Stanford University and the Amazon Conservation Association have used satellite data and cutting-edge laser technologies to show that United Cacao has recently cleared more than 2,000 hectares of mostly old-growth rainforest in Peru,” said ALERT member Thomas Lovejoy, a long-term Amazon expert and former environmental advisor to three U.S. presidents.

“There’s no way you can clear old-growth rainforest and then claim to produce sustainable cacao,” said Lovejoy.

“Not only that,” said Lovejoy, “but they did it very quietly and without conducting an environmental impact study. That sets a very dangerous precedent.”

“We see a lot of green-washing among corporations today—where firms try to appear sustainable but really aren’t,” said ALERT member Lian Pin Koh, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

“My fear, based on these recent findings of large-scale forest destruction, is that United Cacao is one of these green-washing corporations,” said Koh.

“The forests of the Peruvian Amazon are just about the biologically richest real estate on the planet,” said Laurance. “And unfortunately there’s a feeding frenzy happening, with large-scale expansion of oil palm and cacao plantations, as well as heaps of legal and illegal mining and logging.”

“Investors need to be sure that they’re putting their money into projects and corporations that are truly sustainable,” said Laurance. “Right now we have a lot of doubts about United Cacao.”

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