Chocoholics: you may want to make sure you’re sitting down for this one.
According to scientists, there’s a good chance your fave sweet treat could become extinct in the next 30 years — if something doesn’t change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have predicted that cacao (the plant used to create chocolate) could be non-existent by 2050.
Scientific American magazine says the culprits behind cacao’s imminent demise are viruses, fungi and human-caused climate change. But fear not, because scientists say that our beloved chocolate can be saved in one of two ways — by planting selectively bred cacao seeds or by replanting other rain forest species.
Thankfully, the legends at Mars Inc. (the company behind chocolates like Mars Bars, Snickers and M&Ms) are on the case. They’ve enlisted the help of scientists at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) to use gene editing tools to prevent cacao tree farms from being wiped out.
Cacao can be afflicted by several devastating conditions. We’re developing CRISPR editing technologies to alter the DNA in cacao plants to become more resistant to both viral and fungal diseases. We’re developing CRISPR editing technologies to alter the DNA in cacao plants to become more resistant to both viral and fungal diseases.
-Brian Staskawicz, PhD, professor of plant and microbial biology at UC Berkeley and scientific director of IGI’s agricultural genomics program
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Dr. Staskawicz added that the gene editing tools will also be used to protect crops like cassava, rice and wheat from fungi and bacteria, too. So don’t worry — chocolate, stir-fries, pizza and pudding will still all be on the menu in the future!
Speaking of chocolate, did you hear that last year, Swiss scientists created a fourth type of chocolate — and it’s pink!