Published: Wed, January 03, 2018
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

Scientists Expect Chocolate to Go Extinct by 2050

Scientists Expect Chocolate to Go Extinct by 2050

Like coffee plants and wine grapvines, cacao is a finicky tree.

According to U.S. News & World Report, researchers at the Berkeley school are using a new gene-editing technology to manipulate the DNA of cacao plants.

Beyond the glittery glass-and-sandstone walls of the University of California's new biosciences building, rows of tiny green cacao seedlings in refrigerated greenhouses await judgment day.

Officials from Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Ghana are trying to work out how to save their beloved natural product, as they're also faced with the prospect of losing their ecosystems to climate change. A recent study revealed that geneticists have been attempting to tweak the DNA of pigs in order to make them more resistant to cold.

Chocolate is considered the ultimate comfort food and the best way to beat the stress, but experts have warned that it could go extinct soon. Different strains of cacao lack the genetic variety to bolster the plants' resistance to such maladies as witches' broom, frosty pod rot, cocoa pod borer and cocoa swollen shoot. The main problem with the plant is that it's only able to grow within a very limited strip of land located roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator.

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Just two West African countries produce more than half of the world's chocolate, leaving the chocolate supply susceptible to even the smallest climate changes.

Yet, those regions won't be appropriate for chocolate in the following couple of decades.

Cacao trees are especially vulnerable to fungal diseases, especially those that might get displaced by climate change, according to Forbes.

"There are obviously commitments the world is leaning into but, frankly, we don't think we're getting there fast enough collectively", Parkin said.

Its drive with Cho at UC Berkeley is another arm of that endeavors. If all goes as planned, they could develop cacao plants that don't wilt or rot at their current elevations, doing away with the need to relocate farms or find another approach. One of the inventors of CRISPR, Jennifer Doudna, who's overseeing the project, has expressed concern about the implications of her technology and eugenics, but she seems optimistic about longer-lasting tomatoes.

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