Chocolate could reportedly vanish as early as 2050. This revelation has led scientists from the University of California at Berkeley to work with Virginia-based manufacturer Mars, Incorporated to save the cacao plant from disappearing.
Warmer temperatures and drier weather conditions are expected to be the root of the cacao plants' potential disappearance, according to Business Insider. New technology, known as CRISPR, is being used by UC Berkeley scientists to modify the DNA of the plants. The crop's tiny seedlings would be able to survive in different climates if the experiment is proven successful.
Cacao plants originated millions of years ago in South America. The crop is only capable of growing in the lower story of the evergreen rainforest, where warm temperatures and rainfall are plentiful. It's also frequently victim to fungal disease and climate change. More than half of the world's chocolate now comes from two countries in West Africa, being Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.
However, these regions will soon become an unsuitable host environment for the cacao plant.
Joseph Boahen Aidoo, chief executive of Ghana's cocoa board COCOBOD, specifically addressed the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSVD) infesting farms throughout the country in addition to ongoing pest problems wreaking havoc on the cocoa farms. Speaking with GhanaWeb Saturday, Aidoo detailed his recent tours of the country's Western South and North cocoa growing fields. Aidoo called upon Ghana health officials and accompanying government economic directors to collect samples of the current diseased pods for study on how to rehabilitate the country's infestation issues.
Mars, Incorporated is well aware of these problems and other related issues that climate change poses. This has led the company to make a $1 billion pledge towards reducing its business and supply chain's carbon footprint by more than 60 percent, in a plan called "Sustainability in a Generation." The corporation aims to accomplish this task by 2050.
Mars' decision to collaborate with UC Berkeley scientists is a part of this initiative.
"We're trying to go all in here," Barry Parkin, Mars' chief sustainability officer, told Business Insider. "There are obviously commitments the world is leaning into but, frankly, we don't think we're getting there fast enough collectively."
Jennifer Doudna, the geneticist who invented CRISPR, is overseeing the collaborative effort with Mars, the company behind Snickers and M&M's. While she recognized that some risk could come by using this technology, Doudna still believes that it could significantly influence the food eaten by people every day.
"Personally, I'd love a tomato plant with fruit that stayed on the vine longer," Doudna said to Business Insider.