Last year, the UK's influential Ecologist magazine commissioned investigative journalists to explore the human, environmental and animal welfare costs of tea, sugar and milk production. In April they published these stories in a report called "What's Really in Your Cuppa?: a special investigation into the hidden costs of tea, milk and sugar".
Investigations into the global tea sector featured heavily. Verity Largo (a pseudonym) travelled to Kenya's Kericho tea plantation, which is owned by Unilever (the parent company of Irish tea brand Lyons, as reported in the Irish Times a few days ago). Largo spoke to female employees at this Rainforest Alliance-certified plantation, and writes about their allegations of serious sexual harassment by supervisors at the plant; these claims are supported by research undertaken by the Dutch organisation SOMO. You can read Largo's remarkable investigation here. (The Rainforest Alliance's response to Largo's investigation is here.)
William McLennan investigated the human rights abuses and environmental damages associated with the global tea sector, writing that "human rights violations have been reported at plantations in virtually all major tea producing countries, while plantations themselves have a profound affect on the environment". If you're not mid-sup, read it here. There is also a War on Want film that explores the 'hidden costs of tea'.
Sam Campbell travelled to Cambodia to investigate their sugar industry, which has been rejuvenated by EU tax breaks. What should be a success story is soured by reports that farmers have been forced off their lands to make way for sugar plantations which are controlled by local and foreign-owned businesses. Campbell's report is here.
Tom Levitt's article on the environmental and animal welfare issues associated with the UK's dairy sector is relevant to us in Ireland, given the expansion that will take place in 2015 with the abolition of milk quotas. An undercover investigation into California's mega-dairies by Jim Wickens reveals farms with "enormous open-air sheds, mountains of feed, million-gallon pools of slurry and thousands of listless cows".
There's lots more, so go on, stick the kettle on and read.