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New research shows the cocoa in chocolate products, including that box of chocolates you may have purchased for Valentine’s Day, is very likely complicit with increasing and catastrophic deforestation.

In a recent exclusive published by the Guardian, a detailed report found the world’s chocolate industry is driving deforestation on unprecedented scale. Primary offenders include cocoa traders who sell to Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez and other major global brands. It has been claimed that, among other serious issues, these companies “buy beans grown illegally inside protected areas in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80% since 1960”.

In conjunction with Mighty Earth, these findings have been emphasised by research evidencing how “cocoa is driving ongoing deforestation in other regions of the world, from Asia to the Amazon.” Mighty Earth write,

Through detailed satellite mapping and overlaying maps of deforestation and cocoa-producing regions, we found large-scale deforestation within cocoa-producing regions of Indonesia, Cameroon, Peru, and Ecuador. This Valentine’s Day mapping warrants more detailed investigations into the companies driving cocoa-deforestation worldwide, and research into how much of the deforestation in the cocoa-producing regions can be attributed to cocoa as opposed to other commodities. What is crystal clear however, is that the chocolate industry is expanding right now in countries like Indonesia, Peru, Ecuador, and Cameroon that still boast extensive rainforests. With demand for chocolate increasing, the chocolate industry risks aggressively expanding to rainforest nations around the world; in many places, exporting the same bad practices that contributed to the near-total destruction of West Africa’s forests. Ivory Coast and Ghana stand as a cautionary tale of what could happen in other countries where cocoa is spreading, if the industry does not reform its practices.

Following a 2017 report by the same organisation, 24 leading chocolate companies committed to no new deforestation. But there is significant concern about commitment and effective policy action, with “only a handful of companies” making “a global commitment to deforestation-free cocoa”. Remaining is an entire global industry still driving catastrophic deforestation, the environmental and ecological effects of which are cause for concern by the world’s scientists (not to mention the impacts of such deforestation in the fight against climate change).

You can read more in the Guardian. You can also find Might Earth’s full report here.

*Learn which of the world’s chocolate brands rank as the most (and least) ethical by visiting the chocolate section of The Good Shopping Guide.

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