Rodney North's comments on the Cocoa Verification Board and the context have convinced me that the chocolate industry should be doing more. Six years after the child labor issue surfaced in 2001, the new proposal is to monitor the state of child labor on only half of the cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and Ghana - the two largest world cocoa producers.
As North explains it, if a van full of children is trafficked in 2008 to work on a cocoa farm, the monitoring process could note it and this note could be certified and verified without any requirement for corrective action - no requirement for stopping the forced labor, or for alerting consumers that the cocoa/chocolate they are buying is tainted by slavelike practices.
The industry needs to answer these questions. If not, consumers should be signed up through a campaign to spread the word about the conditions under which chocolate is produced. The model is the "No Dirty Gold" campaign, which has been very effective. Equal Exchange is working with the International Labor Rights Forum (laborrights.org), Co-op America, and other Fair Trade chocolate companies and they have prepared a Statement of Commitment to Ethical Cocoa Sourcing that they are seeking to get others (importers, manufacturers, retailers, faith-based organizations) to sign. Expect to hear more about this in the runup to Valentine's Day.
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