Chocolate May Be Extinct By 2050, Scientists Look To Genetically Modify Cacao Plants

By On January 5, 2018

Scientists are predicting that climate change will cause chocolate to become extinct by 2050.

Cacao plants can only grow in specific locations, within 20 degrees to the north or south of the equator. The chocolate-producing plants thrive in rainforest environments because of stable temperatures with rich soil, consistent rain, and high levels of humidity.

Roughly 89 percent of the current growing areas for chocolate will not be suitable for cacao crops by 2050 because of decreasing humidity around the equator.

A report from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) details that the changing temperatures around the globe will make growing cacao plants nearly impossible within the next 30 years. According to the article, the effects of climate change will gradually push the perfect climate for growing cacao into areas less suitable for cultivation or those already reserved as wildlife preserves.

“More than 90 per cent of the global cocoa crop is produced by smallholders on subsistence farms with unimproved planting material,” British researcher Doug Hawkins explained to the Daily Mail.

Rather than address solutions for increasingly unstable climate extremes, Mars Corporation is teaming up with scientists at the University of California Berkeley to alter the genes of the cacao plant. The company has pledged $1 billion in an effort called “Sustainability in a Generation,” with a mission of reducing the carbon footprint of its business model by at least 60% by 2050.

“We’re trying to go all in here,” Mars’ chief sustainability officer Barry Parkin 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.”

With the use of the gene-editing machine CRISPR, the research team will change the genes of the cacao plants in an attempt to make them “more resilient” to the changing weather conditions around the world.

CRISPR has been hyped as a new and improved genetic modification tool that allows for a more targeted application. However, critics of the science have called into question the unintended mutations that may arise.

For example, CRISPR was used in a sight restoration study conducted on blind rats. While the experiment was determined a success and sight was partially restored in the rats, secondary mutations were documented in areas not targeted by the technology.

Despite the fact that there is zero evidence determining the long-term safety of CRISPR, the technology has already been applied to crops like apples, potatoes, and mushrooms and used to engineer animals like pigs and salmon.

For more information on CRISPR, check out these articles by clicking here, here, here, here, and here.