Food production over the last century has taken a turn for the better, new technology allows many industries to mass produce food or beverages as fast as you can think to blink. All the way from manufacturing and food distribution, to wholesale and eventually to the consumer’s house. Everything looks simple, as a consumer, we hardly have a clue what goes on behind the label or ingredients that most products contain.
Whether you’re mindful of GMO in food or not, we need to be remain attentive about what we are consuming. What we put into our body greatly determines our future health, for good or bad. Nevertheless what we really ought to be watchful for is the great measures many food processing companies go through to create a finished product that sits on a shelf waiting to be purchased. From harvesting to the hands of the farmers that are responsible for the delicacy of fresh produce, as consumers we need to stay knowledgeable and informed about the farmers that aid the agriculture behind these huge conglomerate companies.
It’s been a well known and unfortunate reality that farm workers in many countries such as India, China, and other parts of the world are immensely mistreated and underpaid, well below average living conditions. Farmworkers are being exploited for their time and hard labor not only by underpayment but abuse, lack of fresh water, no benefits for being employed, and many more unfathomable circumstances.
You would think abuse and violations of human rights in tea plantations would be a thing of the past but as of recent times (31st of May 2018) a two-year study by the Global Business of Forced Labour investigated the business model of many global tea companies and even that of many cocoa supply chains and found they are wrongdoers of economic coercion. The study was done with accuracy with the dataset and in-depth interviews with over 120 tea and cocoa workers; including many interviews with tea businesses, government, and plantation managers.
It’s despairing having to read the above and ironically find out that the beverage of the camellia sinensis leaves (green tea, matcha, etc) and many others produced–such as those from cocoa trees–are the cause of the malnourishment and even deaths of many of the farm workers that harvested these appetizing plants to begin with. Being a consumer should not be a burden at the cost of someone’s miserable life and health, for the enjoyment of our well being or having a tasty drink or snack.
What Consumers Can Do
The only way to have peace of mind as a tea consumer and to make sure that you are not contributing to the profits of these mega-corporations mass exploiting farm workers is to purchase from only ethical tea brands. Many of the tea brands that are doing things right adopt organic farming practices which optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals, and the people; as well as not using any harmful chemicals (pesticides, harmful plastics in tea bags) and most importantly they comply with safe farming practices that promote the farmers well being and livelihood. It starts with educating ourselves as the consumer to help the lives of many across the globe for the better of humanity.