Quest on for Chocolate Genome

Mars aims to unlock genetic code to develop hardier cacao trees
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 26, 2008 6:44 AM CDT
Mars is developing a project to map the cocoa genome to produce a stronger crop for chocolate lovers.    (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file)
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(Newser) – Candy giant Mars is investing $10 million in a 5-year research project to unlock the secrets of chocolate's genetic code—the cocoa genome—as the first stage in developing cacao trees that can produce more, survive droughts, and combat disease. Mars intends to make the results public to stop key genes from being privately patented, reports the Washington Post. The cocoa harvest has become volatile and unreliable in recent years.

"We have the ability as a private company to take charge of the future," said a Mars executive. "We'll have the full toolbox to use as opposed to the pocketful of tools we have now." (Read more chocolate stories.)