The Bitterness of Sugar

Sugar is sweet, but the ethics of its production is anything but appealing. On the contrary, our use of sugar implicates us in land grabs that violate the rights of some of the world’s poorest communities.

PRINCETON – Sugar is sweet, but the ethics of its production is anything but appealing. “Sugar Rush,” a recent report released by Oxfam International as part of its “Behind the Brands” campaign, has shown that our use of sugar implicates us in land grabs that violate the rights of some of the world’s poorest communities. Better-informed and more ethical consumers could change this.

We are genetically programmed to like sweet things, and when people become more affluent, they consume more sugar. The resulting increase in sugar prices has led producers to seek more land on which to grow sugarcane.

It is no surprise that the poor lose when their interests conflict with those of the rich and powerful. The Oxfam report provides several examples of producers who have acquired land without the consent of the people who live on it, turning farmers into landless laborers. Here is one.

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