Monday, July 6, 2009

Viruses & Chocolate

Your Chocolate Priestess saw a very short article today about a virus threatening crops on the Ivory Coast which is where a good part of the world's cacao plants are grown and thus a good deal of the world's chocolate originally comes from. However this article is far too short, Sisters and Brothers, so I did a bit of research for all of you.

First, viruses in general are not a new threat to cacao and cocoa production. I found scientific journal mentions of studies into this as far back as the early 20th century. All living things, animals or plants, have a risk of viral or bacterial infection, it happens all the time and usually some of any affected species will be immune so the their kind survives though it make undergo changes in form or in the case of food items taste.

Second, I think the original article is probably referring to the latest viral outbreak that I found referenced in the 2006 BBC report. This "swollen shoot virus" has not destroyed the production of cacao yet, the farmer's battles continue after three years which demonstrate how such infection work. The rates and reach of any contagion comes and goes. As recent outbreak of human illness indicate even when we think we have "beat" a virus or bacteria it can come back when we let our sense of hygiene and awareness down. Same thing for farmers and thus for cocoa growers.

Third, the Ivory Coast isn't the only area affected, other parts of Africa have been infected. This does mean that the potential problem is much wider spread than the original article that attracted my attention suggests. The virus seems to be transmitted by insects and as climate changes insects will move to survive so I expect the problem to spread further.

Now, I do not want to distress you, Sisters and Brothers, but in case such things interest you, you can find more photographs of other threats to cacao plants here at this link. Frankly, there are at least three other diseases that are threatening large losses in cocoa production than this "swollen shoot virus".

Don't panic yet, but do be aware of what is happening as the world's climate changes and new virus or bacteria develop or spread. All of this effects the production of cacao and that affect everyone of us in The Chocolate Cult. Either the quality of chocolate will go down or the prices will rise and it is likely that both will happen in our future. Use this as a call to think again about where that chocolate you are eating today came from and to make wiser choices about what you buy.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

If you are reading in the eastern half of the Midwest, don't forget The Chocolate Cult's first CONTEST. For those of you putting off applying, we've had one very good application so you best get to writing and putting your name forward or risk losing this wonderful job forever.

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