The trouble with chocolate

The trouble with chocolate(ˈCHäk(ə)lət)

A decade after Mars(märz) and other chocolate makers vowed(vou) to stop rampant(ˈrampənt) deforestation(dēˌfôrəˈstāSHən, dēˌfärəˈstāSHən), the problem has gotten(ˈɡätn) worse

By Steven Mufson(məf)

Mars Inc(incorporated. inˈkôrpəˌrādəd), maker of M&M’s, Milky(ˈmilkē) Way and other stalwarts(ˈstôlwərt) of the nation’s Halloween(ˌhaləˈwēn) candy bag, vowed in 2009 to switch entirely(enˈtīrlē) to sustainable(səˈstānəbəl) cocoa(ˈkōkō) to combat(ˈkämˌbat) deforestation, a major contributor to climate(ˈklīmit) change.

But as the United States stocks up for trick-or-treating, Mars and other global chocolate makers are far from meeting that ambitious(amˈbiSHəs) goal. Over the past decade, deforestation has accelerated(əkˈseləˌrāt) in West Africa(ˈafrəkə), the source of two-thirds of the world’s cocoa. By one estimate(ˈestəˌmāt), the loss(läs,lôs) of tropical(ˈträpəkəl) rainforests(ˈrānˌfôrəst) last year sped up more in Ghana(ˈgänə) and Ivory(ˈīv(ə)rē) Coast(kōst) than anywhere else in the world.

“Anytime someone bites(bīt) on a chocolate bar in the United States, a tree is being cut down,” said Eric Agnero, an environmental activist(ˈaktivəst) in Abidjan(ˌabəˈjän), the economic capital of Ivory Coast. “If we continue like that, in two, three, four years there will be no more forests.”

Worldwide, the pace(pās,ˈpäˌCHā,ˈpāˌsē) of deforestation is alarming(əˈlärmiNG). In 2017, 40 football fields of tropical forests were lost every minute, spurred(spər) by growing demand not only for cocoa, but also for palm(pä(l)m) oil, soybeans(ˈsoiˌbēn), timber(ˈtimbər), beef(bēf) and rubber(ˈrəbər), according to Global Forest Watch, a nonprofit(ˈnänˈpräfitV) organization with online data and tools for gathering and monitoring forests.

Recent wildfires(ˈwīldˌfīr) have focused attention on the Amazon(-zən,ˈaməˌzän) rainforest in Brazil(brəˈzil), but West Africa is another major trouble spot. Ivory Coast has lost 80 percent of its forests over the past 50 years. And in Ghana, trees have been chopped down across an area the size of New Jersey(ˈjərzē), according to an estimate by the minister(ˈminəstər) of lands and natural resources.