This article is from the In-Depth Report Science of the Occult
60-Second Earth

Chocolate: Treat or Trick?

There is an environmental price for our love of chocolate on Halloween, but it may not be what you think

[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]

Chocolate is the food of the gods, according to the ancient Mayans, and a favorite of Halloween trick-or-treaters. But do these sweets come with an environmental price?

The fruit of the cacao tree--native to South and Central America-- is now mostly grown in West Africa. Small farmers tend some 70,000 square kilometers of the tropical trees and produce about 3.5 million tons of the stuff yearly, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. But the trees need shade to survive, so no clear cutting of forests.

Also, such farmers typically don't use fertilizers or pesticides, meaning you can gorge on chocolate to your environmentally-conscious heart's content. Literally, dark chocolate is good for your heart.

So the environmental cost of chocolate isn't in the chocolate itself but in the way it gets to your pumpkin pail: shipping, trucking and all those wrappers destined for the landfill.

There is a human cost as well. Human rights groups such as Save the Children have shown that kids are being enslaved to produce the cocoa. And small farmers don't see much of the $13 billion in chocolate sales money worldwide.

If you want these farmers to get a fair cut, look for brands with the Fair Trade Certified label. It would be quite a trick to hand American children treats derived from African children's slave labor.


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