Thursday, October 18, 2007

...sugar sugar...

halloween is approaching. candy has been packed in the aisles at CVS since labor day. can we munch on chocolate without the guilt of sugar's history? i don't think so. last year i read sweet and low by rich cohen where he detailed his family's history of sugar substitute fortune. more guilt about the sugar trade and production, as well as our addiction to sweets. i basically have stopped eating "regular" chocolate. i've switched to fair trade or organic brands (dagoba, yum) and i would never look back.

i found some icky facts about sugar production from the green guide but also lots of fair trade treat options for the holiday:

Pesticides and fertilizers used in the production of sugar have led to the destruction of aquatic ecosystems. The loss of topsoil to cane fields has destroyed forest habitats. But sugar's sins start with the slave trade, as Europeans brought captured Africans to work in the cane fields of the Caribbean throughout the 18th century, where slaves died in greater numbers than in the U.S. Sadly, this legacy hasn't come to an end: The chocolate trade has encouraged forced labor in Africa as cocoa farmers sell their product at prices well below what they can afford.

Forty-three percent of the world's cocoa is produced in the Ivory Coast, where over a quarter of a million children work on cocoa farms without access to education and apply pesticides without adequate safety gear, conditions deemed abusive by the International Labor Organization. A staggering number, as many as 12,000 children, are likely to be forced laborers. Much of the impetus behind the use of child labor stems from insufficient income for cocoa producers. In 2002, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture found that cocoa revenues in West Africa average between $30 to $100 U.S. dollars per household member per year. To compensate, cocoa farmers seek out cheaper labor and resort to higher-yield sun-grown cocoa beans, which require significant deforestation. Because sun-grown beans are more susceptible to pests and diseases than those grown in shade, farmers use heavy doses of hazardous pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

The Goods

Divine Chocolate, partially owned by the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, sells 100 percent fair-trade-certified chocolate. Pass out bite-sized milk chocolate eggs ($6.50/200 pieces; Or give kids a chocolate treasure. Global Exchange is carrying Divine's Fair Trade Gold Coins, which read "Ghana Freedom and Justice" on one side and "Fair Deal for Cocoa Growers" on the other ($3.99/22 pieces;
Visit to search for retailers by state.

Equal Exchange's organic and fair trade Dark Chocolate Mini's are available for a limited time this Halloween. ($12/68 minis;

For whole chocolate bars, try Alter Eco's certified organic and fair trade chocolate ($4.29/bar;, 415-701-1212).

Beyond labor issues, help reduce environmental frights by choosing candy made from organic sugar, which is produced without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers with methods that conserve soil. Try the Candy Tree's Organic Mixed Fruit Toffee, sweetened only with organic fruit juices and corn syrup and containing no artificial colors ($2.89/2.6 oz bag of individually wrapped pieces, and Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops, made with 100-percent natural colors and flavors ($2.69/bag of 15; Or buy a pack of organic candy mix including organic gummi bears, lollipops, root bear float candy and milk chocolate ($28/80 pieces;

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