Scientists are now saying that the world could run out of chocolate by the year 2050.
Climate change is to blame for threatening the world’s chocolate supply, which is mostly provided by two African countries: The Ivory Coast and Ghana. Rising temperatures and reduced rainfall are jeopardizing chocolate crops, which can only grow in a very specific climate with relatively constant rainfall and temperature.
But there is hope. Scientists from the University of California at Berkeley are teaming up with the Mars corporation to genetically engineer a heartier cacao plant (the main ingredient in chocolate) to better survive a drier and warmer environment.
The cacao plant is native to South America where it grows in a narrow band of the rainforest. It needs regular rainfall and a nearly constant temperature to survive, which limits its potential areas for cultivation to around 20 degrees north or south of the equator where rains and heat remain mostly consistent.
Cacao was taken to Africa where it was cultivated by farmers as a cash crop. However, global warming is now threatening those farms with disastrous losses as reduced rains and higher temperatures kill the fragile cacao plant. Climate change is a double-whammy for cacao, as drier and hotter conditions make it especially vulnerable to fungal infections.
To save the cacao plant from extinction, UC Berkeley scientists are using CRISPR to cheaply genetically modify the plant’s DNA. CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, and it basically allows scientists to more easily tweak and modify DNA than ever before.
Mars has recently pledged $1 billion to “Sustainability in a Generation,” an internal program that seeks to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 60% by the year 2050.
“We’re trying to go all in here,” said Barry Parkin, Mars’ chief sustainability officer to Business Insider. “There are obviously commitments the world is leaning into but, frankly, we don’t think we’re getting there fast enough collectively.”
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