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Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she had with the Brazilian Government regarding (a) human and animal health, (b) human rights and (c) environmental issues relating to Brazilian beef imports during her recent official visit. (84359)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not discuss these issues in detail during her recent visit to Brazil. However, we regularly raise such matters with the Government of Brazil, bilaterally and with our European partners.

Recently, at the Human Rights Council, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs discussed with Paulo Vannuchi, Brazilian State Secretary for Human Rights, ways in which our countries could deepen co-operation. In April, on his visit to Brazil, my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, also raised human rights with Paulo Vannuchi and agreed that the protection of human rights defenders was one of the key areas in which Brazil and the UK could co-operate.

Animal health is an issue taken seriously by the UK and the EU. In August last year, the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office sent an inspection mission to Brazil. The findings were discussed in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health in Brussels and the committee was satisfied that no additional restrictions on imports were justified at that stage.

The UK has initiated a high-level dialogue on sustainable development with the Brazilian Government to promote action on sustainable development challenges—including deforestation, whether it is caused by soya production or cattle farming. The Government actively supports efforts in Brazil to promote agricultural practices that reduce environmental impact and levels of deforestation. For example, the UK, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Global Opportunities Fund, is supporting an Amazon Deforestation Soya Certification Project which aims to combat deforestation by developing and implementing an independent certification scheme for “forest-friendly” soya.