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22 Jul 2021

University of Bath, PHYS.ORG

Ghana: DNA testing on cocoa beans could revolutionize the chocolate industry as consumers will have greater reassurance about the origins and ethics of chocolates

‘Cocoa DNA testing to end slavery and child labor in chocolate industry’ 14 July 2021

A new method of DNA testing on cocoa beans could revolutionize the chocolate industry, offering consumers greater reassurance about the origins and ethics of their beloved confectionery, and giving the global cocoa industry a precision tool to help end slavery and child labor. Researchers from the University of Bath, University of the West of England, and Surrey Business School have proven a low-cost method which compares DNA in chocolate products to the cocoa when it is farmed. This means cocoa can be reliably traced back from an individual chocolate bar to the specific farms which cultivated the cocoa in it, a major advance on current fair trading, certification and sustainability practices.

… "And activists, NGOs, and governments, will be able to prove that the chocolate bar you buy in your local supermarket contains cocoa grown on farms which abuse the environment or employ child or forced labor. We know consumers care about this—but they need accurate, reliable information to make ethical choices," Rogerson said. Rogerson said the research team had developed a method where the DNA sampling would cost around £5 per farm, putting this well within the reach of the $78 billion cocoa supply industry, and government and NGO foreign aid budgets.

… "It would cost a tiny fraction of the industry's revenues to build such a database in Ghana and Ivory Coast, which is the source of more than 70% of the world's cocoa production. There are an estimated 2.2 million child laborers working on farms in West Africa and reports suggest the problems are worsening despite promises made by large chocolate producers," he said. Rogerson said the research team's interviews of chocolate and cocoa industry stakeholders along the whole supply chain revealed a certain 'fatalism' about the child labor issue and a sense it was too great a problem to tackle... What we are offering industry is a way to break out of that fatalism, and consumers the reassurance that when they pick an 'ethical' product that it is genuinely ethical. We could also see third-party certifiers like Fairtrade or the Rainforest Alliance strengthening their offering and credibility with this," he said