Activists sue big French retailer over Amazon forest damage


PARIS — Environmental groups and indigenous activists from the Amazon region filed a lawsuit Wednesday in a French court alleging that France-based supermarket chain Groupe Casino is violating human rights and environment rules by selling beef linked to deforestation and land grabs.

Casino, a big retailer in South America, would not immediately comment on the lawsuit. In a statement to The Associated Press, it said the company “fights actively against deforestation linked to cattle raising in Brazil and Colombia” and uses a “systematic and rigorous policy to control the origin of beef delivered by its suppliers.”

The activist groups are seeking compensation for damages to indigenous lands and livelihoods in Brazil and Colombia attributed to Amazon deforestation for cattle raising.

They filed the lawsuit in the French city of Saint-Etienne, where Groupe Casino is based, using a 2017 French law requiring large companies to prevent any serious human rights and environmental violations in their businesses and supply chains. Violators must pay reparations for any damage caused by their inaction.

It is now up to the prosecutor’s office to decide whether to take up the case.

Latin America accounted for nearly half of Groupe Casino’s 31.9 billion euros in sales last year, in part thanks to its Pao de Acucar stores in Brazil and Colombia’s Grupo Exito. The company reported 886 million euros in losses in 2020.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019 with pledges to unlock the riches of the vast Amazon and has sparked fierce backlash amid soaring deforestation. A group of investment firms, most based in Europe, have been ratcheting up the pressure on Bolsonaro’s administration, threatening to divest from Brazilian companies if the government doesn’t act to curb illegal logging and prevent intentional burning of forest.

The government’s ongoing military-led operation to curb illegal deforestation and fires in the Amazon rainforest will end April 30, Vice President Hamilton Mourão announced in January.

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