If you consider yourself a lover of all things chocolate, then you may want to sit down before reading this. New reports from scientists warn of a cocoa bean crisis that can lead to a global shortage of chocolate. Climate change is to blame for the lack of moisture and dry soil building up around cacao trees that do best in rainforest like conditions.
The International Business Times reports that experts warn the cocoa bean shortage could lead to full on extinction by the year 2050. Scientists in California have now stepped up to try and avoid the chance of us losing the best thing that ever happened to confections. Mars, Incorporated, the well-known chocolate making company, is currently funding researchers from the University of California at Berkeley to work on saving the cacao plant from extinction.
More than half of the world’s chocolate comes to us from just two countries in West Africa, the Ivory Coast and Ghana. The delicate crop can only thrive in a lower story of evergreen rainforest where they will get plenty of rainfall and warm temperature. But this particular plant is very prone to fungal diseases and ever growing effects of climate change. Scientists at UC Berkeley are attempting to modify the cacao plant’s DNA with a technology known as CRISPR. If they are successful, the plant would be able to thrive in different climates and not require so much moisture.
Of course there will be controversy over producing genetically modified cacao plants and Barry Parkin, Mars' chief sustainability officer, believes this is a risk they must take to save the plant. Parkin says, “We're trying to go all in here. There are obviously commitments the world is leaning into but, frankly, we don't think we're getting there fast enough collectively.” And lead scientist Jennifer Doudna, the geneticist who invented CRISPR, believes there is no harm in modifying a plant’s DNA. Doudna says, “Personally, I'd love a tomato plant with fruit that stayed on the vine longer.”
What do you think of news that the cacao plant is in danger of extinction?
Do you believe modifying the plant’s DNA is the right way to go if we want to save chocolate production?