Chocolate May Become Scarce, Unless Scientists Intervene

They hope to create cacao seeds able to thrive in warmer climates
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2018 11:45 AM CST
As with other crops, climate change will take a toll on cacao production.   (Becky Malewitz/South Bend Tribune via AP)

(Newser) – While chocolate prices have fallen in recent years, you can expect a massive price hike by 2050 unless scientists at the UC Berkeley Innovative Genomics Institute reach their goal. Together with the Mars company, scientists are working to create a genetically modified form of cacao that can withstand the effects of climate change, expected to take a toll on chocolate production in the coming decades, reports Business Insider. Snopes concludes that climate change won't make chocolate go extinct as some suggest, but it will cause temperatures to rise in the narrow stretches of land, roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator, where cacao plants thrive in rainforest conditions, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And that would crimp production.

For example, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, which together produce more than 50% of the world's supply of chocolate, will see a significant reduction in the growing area for cacao, which produces cocoa beans, with an expected temperature increase of 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. Scientists, however, are already working on a solution. Using the gene-editing technology CRISPR—which can also be applied to human embryos, per Newsweek—they're hoping to create cacao seedlings capable of thriving in a warmer, drier climate to prevent the relocation of farms. CRISPR researcher Jennifer Doudna says work on other crops threatened by climate change is ongoing. "Personally, I'd love a tomato plant with fruit that stayed on the vine longer," she tells Business Insider. (Chocolate just got pink.)

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