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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about chocolate.


CURWOOD: In the heart of the coldest month is one of our warmest days, a celebration of romance and love and devotion and a time to exchange gifts with the object of our affection. Valentine's Day. Now you may wonder why an environmental newsmagazine is concerned with Valentine's Day. But without love, of course, we wouldn't even have an ecosystem to talk about. There are other reasons for us to consider Valentine's Day, and we might as well get right down to it: chocolate. It's a perennial favorite on V-Day. In 1994, Americans consumed nearly 3 billion pounds of chocolate. That's about 11 pounds of the sweet stuff for each and every one of us. Chocolate, of course, comes from the cacao tree, which these days is usually found on large tropical plantations, often carved out of clear-cut rainforests. But this monoculture method reduces the productive lifespan of the trees from 60 years to about 20 years, and also erodes the trees' gene pool. Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides pollute water supplies, poison the local fauna, and compound the problem of habitat loss. But relax. This doesn't have to spoil your Valentine's Day. If you like, there's always organic chocolate. It's made chemically free from cacao grown on smaller, biologically diverse farms. And the rainforest doesn't have to come down, either. Instead, these trees grow as an understory crop beneath the forest canopy.



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