Cost of a craving | Editor's Note

By Laura Daniali | Apr 21, 2016

Aphrodisiac. Health food. Comfort food. Chocolate, or Theobroma cacao, is a cure all.

When the craving hits, I head straight for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked with little thought as to where the ingredients came from. It has chocolate listed twice in its description and fudge. How could I go wrong?

But, a recent screening of the film “The Dark Side of Chocolate” at Trinity Lutheran Church has made me rethink my craving.

(The church’s “Sowing Seeds of Hope” ministry hosted the screening. The ministry is hosting a series of free film screenings and discussions called “Stop Human Trafficking: Our Modern Day Slavery.”

The events are open to the public, and two more will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21 and 28 at the church, 6215 196th St. S.W.)

The translation of the Greek name means “food of the gods.” While it might be considered the “food of the gods,” a 2010 documentary asserts that much of the world’s consumable chocolate is grown and harvested by enslaved children in Africa who tend cocoa crops.

In the film, journalist Miki Mistrati exposes the illegal trafficking and exploitation of African children who work on cocoa plantations.

The film was not the first to do so; however, Mistrati sought to prove that the problem persisted even after the world’s major chocolate manufacturers signed a document in 2001 to prohibit trafficking and child labor after 2008.

Members of the Chocolate Manufacturers Association signed the international Harkin-Engel Protocol, or the Cocoa Protocol, to put a stop to child labor practices in the cocoa industry.

Mistrati and filmmaker U. Roberto Romano used secret cameras to shoot footage at bus stops in Africa’s Ivory Coast of traffickers shuttling kidnapped children from buses to motorcycles for transport to cocoa plantations. He also alleged that the world’s leading manufacturers knowingly purchase cocoa from producers who use child labor.

Many of the children were taken from villages in Mali and brought to the Ivory Coast. Once on the plantations, children as young as 6 years old to 17 work long days, some up to 10 to 12 hours a day. They are not permitted to go to school. They live in squalid conditions, and many do not speak the language.

According to MakeChocolateFair.org, the Ivory Coast and Ghana are the world’s largest producers of cocoa, cultivating more than 50 percent of the world’s supply of cocoa for major manufacturers.

The International Cocoa Organization listed U.S.-based Mars Inc. as the 2015 top seller in global chocolate sales with net sales reaching $18,400 (in U.S. millions), followed by U.S.-based Mondelez International at $16,691 (U.S. millions) and Nestlé of Switzerland at $11,041 (U.S. millions) – each sources cocoa from the Ivory Coast.

In the film, Mistrati said a child can be bought for about 230 Euros, or $261. The price includes “transport and the indefinite use of the child.”

Since production of the documentary, each of the listed manufacturers has taken additional steps to end child trafficking and enslavement in the cocoa industry.

In 2010, the companies acknowledged that the extended 2008 deadline of the Cocoa Protocol had not been met, and formed a new treaty called “The Declaration of Joint Action to Support Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol,” pledging to reduce child labor by 70 percent in Ghana and the Ivory Coast by 2020.

Despite efforts, Tulane University’s Payson Center for International Development reported a 51 percent increase in the number of enslaved children, or about 1.4 million total, working in the cocoa industry in 2013-14.

The world is watching

A current bill in the U.S. House of Representatives seeks to amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to require some companies to “disclose information describing any measures the company has taken to identify and address conditions of forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labor within the company’s supply chains.”

The act is known as the “Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015.”

According to the proposed bill, the U.S. is the world’s largest importer, and in 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor identified 136 goods from 74 countries around the world that were made using forced and/or child labor.

Consumers who purchase fair trade products, including chocolate, allow those who purchase and import fair trade certified goods to help producers in developing countries promote sustainability and provide better working conditions and wages for workers.

According to FairTrade.org, there are 34,961 fair trade certified cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast and 95,445 in Ghana.

You can find fair trade chocolate at PCC in Edmonds and Trader Joe’s in Lynnwood.

Trafficking is a local issue

Human trafficking is not only a global issue; it’s a local issue.

The church will host a screening and discussion of “The Long Night,” a documentary about minors forced into the sex trade, at 7 p.m. tonight to bring awareness to local human trafficking issues. The documentary was filmed in Seattle.

A representative from REST: Real Escape from the Sex Trade will join the group on April 28.

From cravings for chocolate to those seeking to fulfill sexual appetites, the demand for goods and services that involve human trafficking and forced labor is growing, and the cost is human lives and dignity.

Fortunately, I can keep enjoying each spoonful of Ben and Jerry’s, as it sources fair trade ingredients. I only know this because the film inspired me to check.

 

“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”

-Arundhati Roy

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