Thinking About Chocolate (Again?)

We are approaching our holiday season, where “visions of sugar plums” will be dancing in everyone’s heads. My mouth waters just thinking about it or does it? The current issue of the National Wildlife Federation’s magazine has put a sour taste in my mouth about the production of cocoa beans. Methods used to grow and harvest cocoa beans are linked to deforestation, human rights abuses and biodiversity crisis. Large sections of jungle regions are being decimated to make way for cocoa crops. Regions which were previously rich with a diversity of plant growth have been replaced by monocropping. This deforestation has destroyed wildlife habitat and released greenhouse gases. Also, since the same crop is grown on the same land repeatedly, the soil is depleted and the resulting crops are susceptible to disease and insect infestation. In turn, farmers end up relying on insecticides and fungicides which pollute the air and water, further harming the wildlife. These insecticides and fungicides end up in our bodies; not a pleasant thought, is it? Also, as if that wasn’t bad enough, human rights abuses, in the form of child labor, subsistent wages and slavery are also used in cocoa production. (Crazy About Chocolate, Serious About People).

But high-quality, sustainably produced cocoa is available. There are areas where cocoa is grown among diverse crops and trees. These areas provide habitat for butterflies, birds, and bats. And they help the farmers’ livelihoods because they enable the farmer to diversify their income. National Wildlife Federation has worked with other NGOs to create a shopping guide, ranking chocolate brands on their social and environmental performance. You can find this guide at Three of the brands listed are Endangered Species Chocolate, Equal Exchange, and Divine Chocolate. Tony’s Chocolonely made the list for their use of fair labor practices, but missed out on environmental issues.

So give your body and the planet a break this holiday season and treat yourself and your loved ones some really good chocolate.

Take care,


To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.

Wendell Berry

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