Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slaves to Sugar: History of Sugar article in National Geographic

Sugar Cane was first domesticated in Papau New Guinea 10,000 years ago.  It spread slowly reaching the Asian mainland around 1,000 BC.  By 500 AD it was being processed into white powder in India.  The Arabs perfected the technology and it was brought back to Europe by the British and French Crusaders. But so little trickled into Europe it was only consumed by the nobility and classified as a spice. And this was one of the spices they sought when Columbus and other explorers set off in search of a route to the East.  Columbus brought cane with him and thus the cultivation of sugar cane in the Caribbean. And the clearing of rainforests and the decimation of the native inhabitants.  And the slave trade, because growing and refining sugar cane is brutal work.   Throughout the Caribbean millions died in the fields and pressing houses or while trying to escape.  The Portuguese turned Brazil into an early boom colony with more than 100,000 slaves churning out tons of sugar.
On top of all this evil, there's the damage it does to your health.  Almost any of the major health conditions rampant today can be traced to the consumption of added sugar.  Because as more and more cane was planted, the price of the product fell. As the price fell, demand increased. Eventually, it became a staple for the middle class, and finally the poor.