The bitter taste of chocolate.

Last month we have finished the Monk’s Mind experiment – one of the rules throughout the month was refrain from eating chocolate. As with everything else that I have been deprived during that month, I asked myself lots of questions: why I eat chocolate in the first place, what is chocolate, how it works on my brain, how it is produced, can I go without it, and if so what impact will it have on economy, pollution, etc.

To most people chocolate is just a sweet, good-mood inducing treat, but, behind the seemingly innocent cocoa substance, there is a dark multi-billion dollar industry, with a long history of exploitation, slavery, injustice, greed, and possibly large amount of pollution and byproducts. All, in the name of our sheer pleasure alone. 

One of good reasons to not support production of chocolate is the controversial cocoa manufacturing itself. Ivory Coast the major supplier is causing lots of concern with child abuse and child labour. Even though major industry players agreed in 2001 to take action, after seven years little progress has been made, says Christian Parenti in his article posted early this year. Only few brands embrace the Fair Trade agreements, with majority of industry big guns such as Nestle and Mars  ripping the benefits and good profit margins from cheap slavery labour. Cadbury seems to purchase (most if not all) their supply from Ghana. 

Strong arguments in the debate has been recently (April 2008) published in two books:  “Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet” (here’s treehuger review) and “The Bittersweet World of Chocolate: Sumptuous recipes using fair trade chocolate“. 

I’ll continue to refrain from eating chocolate. I may have occasional one (one that complies with Fair Trade agreements). Cadbury’s dark ghana chocolate might be a good one to follow up on. Not sure what the ecological footprint of chocolate manufacturing is though – I can live without it relatively easily as I’ve learned last month. 

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