The Coffee Conundrum

Thirty years ago, almost all coffee was grown in its natural habitat -- in the shade under the canopy of the rain forests. But in the past decade, 40 percent of the forests in Mexico, Colombia and Central America have been cut down and much of the land converted to coffee-growing fields, which yield more coffee for a fast-growing market. But coffee grown in sunny fields requires application of fertilizer and pesticides, causing an unhealthy environment and toxic runoff. Moreover, high-quality coffee grows in areas that claim some of the world's richest biological diversity, making the environmental impact of cutting the forests even greater.

Major tropical wilderness areas: Many of the last remaining expanses of pristine forest in the world are also natural coffee growing areas.

Global biodiversity hotspots: Conservation International has designated 25 highly threatened areas as biodiversity hotspots, and many overlap coffee-growing areas. These areas combined claim more than 60% of total terrestrial diversity.

Some Coffee Facts:

Coffee is a $13 billion export industry.

It is the second largest agricultural commodity after cotton.

Americans drink more coffee than any other people, 2.3 billion pounds each year. Only one-sixth of this coffee is grown organically in the shade.

Recently, some American companies have begun promoting shade-grown coffees.

By drinking two cups of coffee a day, you are consuming the annual harvest of 18 coffee trees.

SOURCE: Conservation International