Monday, April 16, 2007

Keeping Chocolate Real and Fair

Changes to the FDA's definition of chocolate will hurt cocoa growers.
Image source: Co-op Fair Trade.

As a large -- and timid -- chocolate bunny stares at me from its bed of Easter grass, waiting for the moment in which I bite its delicious little ears off, I'm thinking about a proposal put forth to the FDA.

That chocolate bunny -- tall, dark, and handsome; sweet, smooth, and decadent -- might next year have an inferior replacement. The Chocolate Manufacturers of America (CMA) in collaboration with the Grocery Manufacturers Association have petitioned the FDA to change the definition of chocolate, so that products made with milk substitutes and vegetable oil (instead of milk and cocoa butter) can be sold under the label of "chocolate." Why? So the manufacturers can save money by selling cheap crap. (Check out the specific proposed changes.)


Is nothing sacred?

If this petition is enacted, the result of is two fold: A) poorly made "mocklate" confections (example) will be reclassified and legitimized by the FDA and, more importantly, B) chocolatiers can avoid paying fair wages to workers in countries where cocoa is grown. From a Guittard Chocolate Company press release:

Changing the current “Gold Standard” for chocolate by allowing the substitution of hydrogenated or chemically-modified vegetable fats for cocoa butter will also have a dramatic impact on cocoa growers in Central and South America, the Caribbean Basin, Africa, and nations in Southeast Asia at a time when the global chocolate industry is working to improve working and economic conditions of these developing countries’ farmers. In fact, the plan to substitute these types of vegetable fats for cocoa butter would cause a disastrous economic impact on their livelihoods as the demand for cocoa butter would likely decrease and prices would plummet as some manufacturers switch to the cheaper substitutes. [Emphasis mine]
The result of this is that big manufacturers can start producing your favorite candies with "mocklate" short changing cocoa growers out of well deserved income. (Hershey chocolate is already on board with this and supports the Grocery Manufacturers Association efforts.*)

But this movement can be stopped. All you have to do is send a comment to the FDA telling them not to mess with chocolate by the April 25, 2007 deadline. To make it even easier, guides you through the process, even providing you with a letter you can cut-and-paste into the FDA's comment box (but you should feel free to write your own letter).

Really: it only takes a moment and it's as simple as pie -- a delicious slice of chocolate cream pie, made with genuine chocolate.

Read more about this issue here and here.
* Source.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Another Television is Possible

It is interesting that only socialist countries seem to have the will to control the flood of vulgar bacchalian depravity that has completely taken over media. The drive for profit led to the complete deregulation of media in the west starting in the 1980s. Now we see that we are on the brink of, if we have not already reached it, total moral breakdown.

It is sad to see in Blockbuster that 50% or more of the videos are graphic horror films (most of the rest being graphically violent "action" films). The prospects for the current generation growing up with this spectaclist schlock as the norm are grim indeed.
SYDNEY (Green Left Weekly) - “We at Telesur believe that 'Another television is possible’”, Aharonian told the Australian brigadistas. “Telesur is the first Latin American experience in mass television. We have always been seen through foreign eyes. From the North, they only see us in black and white. Black, because we only appear in the news when there is a big problem in our countries ... We are a very diverse and plural region; we need to see ourselves in our own way.

As “alternative media”, Aharonian said, “we must not be marginalised. We must be a mass-based alternative. All the documentaries and programs on Telesur come from alternative sources — independent producers, universities and national radio and TV from various countries.

“At this stage, we don’t have our own documentaries or musical programs, only the news. We try to pass on what other independent and alternative producers are doing.”
BEIJING (Reuters) - China has called on TV and radio stations to ignore ratings and "vulgarity" in their programming and promote socialist values instead, state media reported on Tuesday.

China keeps a tight grip on its state-owned broadcasters, but market reforms have spawned increasingly outrageous shows, including reality TV, to attract viewers and advertising revenue.

The State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) urged broadcasters to boycott bad taste, "build harmonious culture and provide noble and rich programming for the masses," Xinhua news agency said.

"They should relay on quality and innovative programming, and outstanding ideological, artistic and attractive works to draw viewers. They should not rely on vulgarity to cater to a minority's low-grade interests," SARFT was quoted as saying.

The creation of a "harmonious society" is the doctrine of President Hu Jintao as China seeks to remove the causes of social tension.