“All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!” –Lucy Van Pelt (from “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz)
Who doesn’t love the taste of rich bon-bons, creamy truffles, or a frothy cup of cocoa? They taste less sweet, however, when you consider the chocolate industry’s underbelly: deforestation, pollution, and slave labor. Fortunately, you can buy organic, fair-wage chocolate with a clear conscience.
Sweet: A growing number of chocolate companies is devoted to fairly traded agriculture, which ensures workers are paid a fair wage and provided with safe working conditions. Child laborers have the opportunity to attend school.
Bitter: Many cacao farms are under investigation for using slave and child labor. Through poverty and human trafficking, laborers are forced to work in dangerous jobs. Up to 15,000 children from some of the world’s poorest countries are thought to be laboring on plantations in the Ivory Coast, producer of almost half the world’s cocoa.
Sweet: Cacao trees thrive on the nutrient-rich soil under the rainforest canopy where shade and neighboring native flora naturally keep them free of pests and disease. Organic farming helps safeguard fragile ecosystems.
Bitter: Most cacao beans are grown in open plantations created by cutting down rainforests. Cacao farming contaminates area water and soil when growers fight plant pests and diseases with fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides.
Sweet: Chocolate contains antioxidants that fight free-radical damage in the body and can even protect the heart (1.5 ounces of chocolate contain as many antioxidants as 5 ounces of red wine). Chocolate also contains brain chemicals that may boost some people’s moods.
Bitter: Many types of chocolate are high in refined sugar and fat, which contribute to diabetes and obesity.
This Valentine’s Day, support these organic, fair trade chocolate companies: