Alexandria B. (in Food Services at the Kootenay Co-op)
Why are organic farming practices and fair trade important to you and why are they important to the cocoa industry?
The delicious treat that we call chocolate is not as delightful as it tastes. The delicacy that we all enjoy comes at a high price. Many people do not realize the factors that are in play when consuming chocolate. Human rights are abolished and land is mistreated to create a non-essential, but very alluring product. We sometimes see packaging labels reading: “fair trade” or “organic” but the importance of these words is not always understood.
Fair trade is the most important factor I consider when I choose what chocolate to buy. The cocoa industry is notorious for mistreating their workers. The hours are long, the wages are minimal and the work itself is exhausting and dangerous. The farmers are often children who work in place of their parents who are no longer physically able to continue working the harsh conditions that cocoa farmers are subjected to. The compensation is so minimal that these workers can barely afford basic necessities. Children work to help provide for their families but are subjected to such harsh conditions, their bodies are destroyed by the time they reach adulthood, which in turn creates a vicious cycle destined to be repeated until we stop allowing this to happen. Although that in itself is already revolting, most of these farmers don’t actually know what the cocoa bean gets transformed into. Many of these workers have never had the privilege of tasting chocolate.
Organic chocolate farming practices should be fought for as well as fair trade chocolate. The cocoa plant is a very finicky plant and is not able to grow in many places throughout the world. Only a small belt of the world can grow cocoa plants. Cocoa plants will only grow between the latitudes of 10 degrees north to 10 degrees south of the equator. That already doesn’t leave us with much, but add in climate conditions such as rainfall, humidity, and proper light and you lose a lot of the very small territory. The soil conditions need to be just right as well. Organic farming should help in maintaining and replenishing the soil. The cocoa plant is now in danger of becoming extinct because of farming mal-practices. One of the biggest concerns with non-organic farming whether it is cocoa plants or other crops, is the use of pesticides. Chocolate happens to be one of the crops that are dosed with the most pesticides in the world. Pesticides can cause neurological problems in people, destroy plant biodiversity, are harmful to bees, and animals amongst many other problems.
Many big name companies lose accountability on their farming practices due to the fact that many of the cocoa beans they are purchasing are not traceable. Non traceable chocolate means that the beans can come from a farm that does not practice human rights or organic cultivation and there is absolutely no way of knowing.
As a pastry cook in previous places of employment, I have found myself needing to supress my values to do my job. The prices of organic and fair trade chocolate are substantially more than the non-conscientious kind, so many places will forgo this option in order to turn a higher profit. The mistreatment of humans and land that come with chocolate are either forgotten, dismissed or simply unknown to many people. I dream of a world where fair trade and organic chocolate are the norm and not simply an option.
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