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The bitter taste of conflict chocolate

If you’ve been looking for another reason to cut back on your chocolate consumption, here’s a pretty good one. The London-based group Global Witness has now linked profits from Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry—like those of diamonds from Sierra Leone and timber from Liberia—to the perpetuation of armed conflict in the country. (Child labor, apparently, is ...

601376_061204_Choco2.jpg

If you’ve been looking for another reason to cut back on your chocolate consumption, here’s a pretty good one.

The London-based group Global Witness has now linked profits from Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry—like those of diamonds from Sierra Leone and timber from Liberia—to the perpetuation of armed conflict in the country. (Child labor, apparently, is not the only problem with cocoa.)

In its report entitled “Hot Chocolate: How cocoa fuelled conflict in the Ivory Coast,” Global Witness claims that $118 million from the cocoa trade found its way into the war chest of both government forces and the rebel group Forces Nouvelles (FN). Along with uncovering evidence of this dangerous movement of funds, the group shines light on the use of censorship and intimidation in covering it all up:

The government’s determination to hold on to this cocoa-derived wealth has been demonstrated by a pattern of intimidation against those who have attempted to expose its abuses: journalists, auditors and independent investigators have been threatened and attacked. Cases include the abduction of a French lawyer who was auditing the cocoa sector and the disappearance of journalist Guy-André Kieffer.

They urge for greater transparency on the part of both cocoa exporters and chocolate manufactures, which would involve disclosing payments made to Ivorian government and cocoa bodies, publishing information on the origin of the cocoa they are buying, and carrying out due diligence on purchases.

And the chocolate industry’s response? Susan Smith, a spokeswoman for the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, told the Financial Times that “tracing or labeling individual beans is, as a practical matter, impossible.”

I think that’s what logicians call “beating a straw man.”

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