Danno and I were talking about candy the other day when I said "Man, I still miss M&Ms after over a year of boycotting."
I decided to boycott M&Ms after learning their suppliers use child labor. The other bad seed in this is Hershey, who also has some serious issues in buying from chocolate suppliers that employ the use of child labor. While some of the child labor stems from poverty (their families are so poor they need all the help they can get. So the children pitch in to help on the farm) there is quite a bit of child trafficking. Those who have known me a long time know that I LOVE my M&Ms but this was a small sacrifice to make on behalf of some child halfway across the globe slaving away to harvest something I don't need to be eating.
To quote verbatim from Ethical Consumer :
A study conducted in 2002 estimated that of about 284,000 children working in the West African cocoa industry, 200,000 were in the Côte d’Ivoire and a “substantial minority” of these children were found to have been trafficked from Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo.(2) The same study found that some 10,000 children in the Côte d’Ivoire were victims of human trafficking or enslavement, whilst 109,000 worked under the “worst forms of child labour”. Since these figures were reported, however, it seems that absolute numbers are hard to come by. An Ivoirian government survey conducted in 2007 claimed that “fewer than 2% of children who work in cocoa production are not members of the household.”(3) From this data, which is perhaps questionable, it is difficult to assess how much progress has been made, despite the claims made by the Ivoirian government and the chocolate industry. The US Department of State reported people trafficking, forced labour, forced child labour, and hazardous child labour to have occurred in the country in 2007.(4) In August 2009, an INTERPOL operation resulted in the rescue of 54 children of seven different nationalities that were victims of organised slave labour in cocoa and palm plantations in the Côte d’Ivoire. INTERPOL described the trend in child trafficking and exploitation in the area as ‘increasing’.(5)
After a bit more digging I discovered that Mars, Inc and Hershey have not changed their ways, although Hershey has since claimed to commit to "responsible"cocoa growing, though they still cannot or will not trace the source of their cocoa through their suppliers.
Since my M&Ms boycott in January 2009, I've added Kit Kats and most Nestle products to the list. Although I still eat mainstream chocolate on occasion, I have switched to eating Endangered Species, Green and Black's, and Newman's Own chocolates. These chocolates are more expensive, but they taste so much better and I eat less of it.
I'll never be the perfect consumer of FairTrade chocolate but more than half of my chocolate purchases have the Fair Trade label. I know my boycott and careful chocolate purchases are small beans compared to the rest of the world, but it's better than doing nothing.
But dang it, I still miss my M&Ms.