Producers hit back at radical Greenpeace deforestation claims

Shan Goodwin
By Shan Goodwin
Updated December 17 2021 - 1:16am, first published December 16 2021 - 11:00pm
Producers hit back at radical Greenpeace deforestation claims

NORTHERN cattle producers have hit back at the latest attempts by international environmental campaigners to create the perception Australian beef is linked to deforestation.

Objective data unequivocally showed that Queensland-grown beef was a deforestation-free product, unlike the 'investigative journalism' from Greenpeace UK that is spouting hectares of clearance in the past four years, they said.

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Greenpeace UK is angling to influence trade agreements between the United Kingdom and Australia, saying UK shoppers 'could in the future be exposed to deforestation-linked beef, since meat exports are a major element of the UK-Australia trade deal'.

The organisation's Unearthed project has just released imagery showing what it claims is 13,500 hectares of cleared country across dozens of beef properties in Queensland. Activists claim producers are using loopholes in Australian law to 'continue large-scale clearing'.

That 13,500ha 'large-scale' claim has been seen as ludicrous in Australia, given Queensland is 1,842,000,000 hectares in size.

Even if it were true, it amounts to 'less than a dandelion being removed in an English garden', one industry leader said.

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Producer representative groups including AgForce and the National Farmers Federation point to a plethora of independent analysis and data that tells the opposite story to the Greenpeace claim.

This includes Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018, the 2019 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report and data from Queensland's Statewide Landcover and Trees Study.

The United Nations also has Australia as second in a list of top 10 nations for reforestation, with an average net gain in forest area between 2010 and 2020 of 446,000 hectares each year.

Agforce says data clearly shows the extent of vegetative cover and vegetation density in Queensland are both increasing, and that high ecological value areas are protected.

AgForce chief executive officer Michael Guerin said Queensland beef producers valued and protected plant and animal species, and were united in their desire to produce safe, delicious, healthy food for the rest of us in Australia and throughout the world.

"The other good news is that agricultural land, with its diverse range of vegetation, essentially acts as carbon sinks because most landholders sequester more carbon on their properties than they release," he said.

The State of the Forests Report 2018 showed most clearing in Australia, including in Queensland, was of regrowth, and did not include permanent conversion of remnant forest into grazing lands.

"Control of regrowth is vital to help trees and grasses in Queensland regenerate, and critical to maintaining grazing lands and our current food production capability - including for crops and pulses," Mr Guerin said.

"Sensational claims of land clearing the size of football fields are myths and by our estimations would take at least 250 years to achieve.

"Queensland's world-class monitoring and compliance framework is able to identify cases of illegal clearing from satellite imagery updated every five days - which helps keep unexplained clearing to levels less than 0.04 per cent.

"Some groups like to take these satellite images and apply their own 'facts' to them, twisting the truth and perpetuating myths to satisfy their own agendas."

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NFF president Fiona Simson said the area deemed forest in the sunshine state had actually grown.

"Unfortunately, this hasn't stopped the radical green movement from now redefining clearing, or deforestation, to include regrowth," she said.

Given the demonstrable lack of scale of the current accusation, Australian producers can only conclude it is yet another veiled attempt to use whatever means possible to damn the red meat industry out of existence, Ms Simson said.

"We have seen repeated attempts to undermine a sector that is vital for delivering high quality protein, critical for dietary needs, and is the socio-economic basis of many developing country's economies and wellbeing," she said.

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Shan Goodwin

Shan Goodwin

National Agriculture Writer - Beef

Shan Goodwin steers ACM’s national coverage of the beef industry. Shan has worked as a journalist for 30 years, the majority of that with agricultural publications. She spent many years as The Land’s North Coast reporter and has visited beef properties and stations throughout the country and overseas. She treats all breeds equally.

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