FM 88.5 Edmonton
6 pm Mountain Time
In the Global North, chocolate is a major part of our lives. We give it as the generic token of affection at Christmas. On Valentine’s Day we send it as a sign of romantic love. When we need a mood booster or something to staunch our hunger, we grab a chocolate bar.
In recent years, it’s become a staple of corporate journalism to report on the supposed health benefits of consuming chocolate, or on the alleged debate over chocolate’s power as an aphrodisiac, or how the effects of chocolate on brain chemistry mimic those of post-orgasmic flush.
But what almost no one in the Global North realises is that chocolate is not simply big flavour or even big business, but a big, gaping wound in the body of human rights. The world’s number one supplier of cocoa beans, the central ingredient in chocolate, is Ivory Coast, a country whose cocoa farmers routinely employ child labourers who aren’t paid. That means they’re enslaved. These same children are often lured to be transported hundreds of kilometres from their homes. That’s human trafficking. The massive profits from cocoa exports are used by governments and militias to finance their arsenals against each other. That’s civil war.
As much a planetary killer as is Big Tobacco, its daily operation pales before the massive human rights abuse that is Big Chocolate, or what should be called Blood Chocolate.
As we’ll find out tonight, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Some of it belongs with the farmers in Cote d’Ivoire who are enslaving children, or the militaries feasting on chocolate profits. But much if not most belongs with massive Western corporations reaping profits in the billions while operating out of cartels which manipulate global markets and commodity prices, which permanently shackle the economies of Original World nations.
To explain this story, we’ll hear from Carol Off, the acclaimed journalist and host of CBC’s As It Happens who’s author of Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.
A finalist for the Writers’ Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing and for the National Book Award, Bitter Chocolate is a horrifying description of the tortured history of cocoa, from its use by megalomaniacal kings in Meso-America, to its role as an economic driver in European global conquest.
We’ll discover the fascinating story of a Canadian-French journalist assassinated for investigating Big Chocolate at its production source, cocoa money laundering in New York state, and the role of the IMF and the World Bank in crushing national sovereignty by economic manipulation.
Carol Off spoke with me by telephone while on the road in Ontario on April 19.
She's also requesting help in setting up a Bitter Chocolate website to act as a clearing-house and meeting space for anyone interested in pursuing the issue of blood chocolate. If you're a skilled web-maker, you can reach Carol Off c/o the Bro-Log, or simply by contacting her directly: CarolOff@cbc.ca.
Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote d'Ivoire
Chocolate: Slave Trade or Fair Trade?
The Purefood Campaign Against Starbucks
Chocolate... by Slave Labour
Global Exchange on Harkin-Engel Protocol (2005)
The following links are courtesy of antislavery.org:
Statement on slavery and chocolate production
Slave trade or fair trade - how can you tell?
Child trafficking from Benin to Gabon
Child trafficking from Mali to Côte d'Ivoire
Mali and Côte d'Ivoire agreement against child trafficking
Rehabilitating trafficked children in Mali
UN submission on child trafficking in Benin and Gabon
UN submission on child trafficking in West and Central Africa