PARIS: Indigenous peoples from Brazil and Colombia sued retailer Casino in a French court on Wednesday over the selling of beef linked to land grabbing and deforestation in the Amazon, campaigners involved in the lawsuit said.
It is the first time a French supermarket chain has been taken to court over deforestation and the loss of land and livelihood under a 2017 law in France that demands its companies avoid human rights and environmental violations in their supply chains.
Casino declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Casino controls Brazil's largest food retailer, Grupo Pao de Acucar (GPA), which itself owns Colombian retailer Almacenes Exito. Brazil is Casino's second largest market after France.
The lawsuit alleges that Casino regularly bought beef from three slaughterhouses owned by a major Brazilian meatpacker.
Those slaughterhouses sourced cattle from nearly 600 suppliers responsible for at least 50,000 hectares - an area five times the size of Paris - of deforestation between 2008 and 2020, according to the lawsuit.
The Amazon plays a vital role in regulating the Earth’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
An area of the Amazon rainforest the size of Israel was felled last year, campaign groups say. Cattle ranching is a big driver of habitat loss, as population growth and the expanding middle classes of developing nations fuel the consumption of meat and dairy.
In Colombia, cattle ranching and mining were threatening the future of indigenous communities, said Fany Kuiru Castro of the Ultoto people.
Companies are under growing pressure from national legislation and campaigners to protect the Amazon.
French bank BNP Paribas in February pledged to only finance companies producing beef or soybeans in Latin America that adopt a strategy of zero deforestation by 2025.
In January, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse and Dutch lender ING announced they were to stop financing the trade in crude oil from Ecuador. Indigenous leaders said the banks’ money made them complicit in the destruction of rainforest by Ecuador’s oil industry.
Plaintiffs to the lawsuit include French and U.S. campaign groups.
(Reporting by Richard Lough and Dominique Vidalon; editing by Jason Neely and Elaine Hardcastle)