On November 24th, according to a report in the Peruvian newspaper La Republica, police raided the docks in the Amazon port of Iquitos, confiscating the equivalent of 60 heavy truck-loads of timber. The wood, worth around $0.5m, was bound for Mexico and the US – and reportedly 80% of it was owned by the FSC certified company, Inversiones La Oroza SRL. (Posting amended 10/12/15)
It’s official: the FSC is now setting out to use its grotesque Controlled (sic) Wood Policy in order to ‘launder’ wood from areas experiencing recent deforestation into the FSC certified wood supply chain.
The outcome of Greenpeace’s complaint against Congolese logging company SODEFOR, announced by the FSC on March 23rd, will probably not please the complainants very much, but it once again has served to highlight some of the glaring weaknesses in the FSC system.
In one of the political blogs still commenting on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s second raid on Gibson Guitars for possible contraventions of the Lacey Act, Republican pundit Andrew M. Langer, berating Gibson for “consorting with environmentalists”, refers to an old saying that “if you lie down with dogs be prepared to get up with fleas”. He adds that “Apparently if you lie down with environmentalists you should be prepared to get raided by the Feds.”
The raiding of Gibson Guitars in Tennessee in August by US Federal Fish and Wildlife officials for suspected violations of the Lacey Act – which forbids US companies from importing wood obtained from illegal sources – has once again cast a very hard light on the FSC system, and in particular on the Rainforest Alliance, whose SmartWood scheme is the FSC’s most prolific issuer of FSC certificates. An October 2nd article (which we reproduce in full below), published in the ‘Tennessean’ newspaper, has opened new revelations about the relationship between Gibson and the Alliance, which sound loud alarm bells about the ‘independence’ of the certifier.
Certification in any of the countries in the Congo Basin was always going to stretch the credibility of the FSC system to the limit – as the miserable experiences in Cameroon of companies such as SEFAC and Wijma have shown (the former of which remains ‘suspended’ for forest management but, illogically, still certified for Chain of Custody). Sadly, because the FSC is unable to control its certifiers, these lessons seem not to have been learned; allowing its certifiers to issue certificates in DR Congo was always bound to end in disaster.
In May 2008, the US government enacted a revision to the Lacey Act, a hundred year-old piece of legislation that renders it illegal to trade in goods in the US which are from illegal sources, which now makes the Act applicable to the timber trade. Whilst timber traders are no doubt hoping that use of FSC certified wood is going to keep them out of prison, they may be in for a nasty shock.