A team of researchers has found that cocoa plants and chocolate could go extinct over the next four decades. Academics at the University of California have joined forces with Mars company to try and save the plants by that date.
Lead author Myeong-Je Cho explained that his team is now looking for ways to make the crops more resilient in warmer and drier climates. The best technique to achieve that ambitious goal is gene editing.
The new tech dubbed CRISP enables researchers to perform minor tweaks to the plants’ genome that were never possible with older technologies. Genetic engineering is already used for other crops like corn and soybean, making them more reliable and cheaper to produce.
Researchers believe genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be very useful especially in third world countries where resources are scarce and global warming has the greatest impact.
The Future of Chocolate Depends on the Cocoa Plants’ Fate
Cocoa plants are very sensitive as they are know to only grow in particular parts of a rainforest and to need perfect humidity, temperature, and weather conditions. More than 50% of the world’s cocoa output comes from two states in Africa – Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
Researchers estimate that the two countries would become unfavorable for cocoa plants over the next four decades. This means that farmers will have to move cocoa crops uphill, in chiller regions designed to host wildlife.
Mars whose market value is $35 billion, is well aware of the risks and is seeking solutions. Last fall, it unveiled a $1 billion plan dubbed “Sustainability in a Generation,” which aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The project’s goal is to lower the emissions of the chocolate industry by 60% over the next 40 years.
The latest partnership with UC Berkeley is part of the same project. If the experiment is successful, cocoa plants will be able to survive in warmer conditions and won’t need to be relocated.
Image Source: Pixabay
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