Brazil's JBS says suing Greenpeace after report

Thu Jun 7, 2012 2:11am IST

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By Fabiola Gomes

SAO PAULO, June 6 (Reuters) - Brazil's JBS, the world's largest meat company, said on Wednesday it would sue environmental organization Greenpeace for what it called false claims that could cause it to lose business and hurt its image.

In a report it released this week, Greenpeace accused the company of breaking an accord that JBS and other Brazilian meat packers signed in 2009 promising not to purchase cattle raised on deforested pastures. Greenpeace said JBS had bought cattle raised on Indian reserves and other restricted areas.

JBS said in a market filing on Wednesday that all the accusations Greenpeace had made against it in the report were false and "lead society to a false conclusion." It said would take Greenpeace to court for material damages and for making accusations harmful to its image.

JBS, which did not say how much it would seek in compensation, said the report could cause it to lose existing contracts and future business.

The report is part of an effort by Greenpeace and other environmentalists to highlight the role of food producers in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. It comes in the run-up to Rio + 20, a United Nations summit on sustainable development being hosted by Brazil.

Although Brazil has made great strides over the past decade in slowing the pace of deforestation, ranchers remain among the main offenders behind continued clearcutting.

JBS's Mercosur Regional President Jose Augusto de Carvalho said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, held to address the report, that the company had so far not received any contract cancellations.

Carvalho said JBS had contracted an independent company to audit its purchases of cattle in the region that were called into question in the report.

JBS said in the filing that it is one of Brazil's most advanced meatpackers in terms of sustainable business practices. It said the ranches deemed problematic by Greenpeace in the report are not flagged as irregular by Ibama, Brazil's environmental regulator.

Greenpeace said it has been meeting with the companies that signed the pledge not to use cattle from deforested land. Andre Muggiati, Greenpeace's coordinator for the Amazon region, said it published the report after noticing "failures" in JBS's compliance with the accord.

"There have been many meetings, and JBS fails to present a consistent accounting," Muggiati said. "There have been successive failures.

Greenpeace said at least six European companies that buy JBS beef and leather have said they could cancel or not renew their contracts. The bulk of the report focused on beef from Brazil's center-west state of Mato Grosso, a major cattle and grains producer.

Muggiati said two other big beef processors in the state, Marfrig and Minerva, had no problems proving the origins of their cattle.

Greenpeace released a report in October 2011 in which it made similar charges that JBS denied at the time.

The company, once a small, family owned slaughterhouse business, grew into global food company in recent years after a merger and acquisitions spree financed by Brazil's state development bank. closed up 3.3 percent at 5.63 reais, while Bovespa index closed up 3.2 percent.

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