What would the world be without chocolate? Its not too far-fetched if these new findings are to be believed.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — fitting pronounced as ‘nooo-ah!’ in this case — has published findings of the danger to cacao plants from climate change.
At present, more than half of the world’s cocoa is produced in two countries in West Africa – Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.
In Central America, fungal disease has spread like a plague and affected the growth of cacao plants, according to a report by Michael Moyer in 2010. And worsening climate conditions are expected to impact chocolate production in West Africa.
The cacao plant needs humidity, moisture, and warm temperature to thrive — ideally in rainforests 20° North and South of the equator — but with global warming, dry conditions and hot temperatures pose a grave threat to our indulgent delight.
Cocoa bean farming is at around 300 feet above sea level, but according to NOAA, climate change will push it up to 1500 feet by the year 2050 — a mountainous terrain that is already preserved for wildlife.
Fertilizer and pesticide is not an alternative yet — most cacao farming is done by the poor in Africa who cannot afford them.
There is one solution — the same idea that NASA and science fiction has been clinging to for as Earth becomes unlivable (and what could be more unlivable than a world without chocolate?) — and that solution is Mars.
The food and candy company Mars has collaborated with the University of California to start a research known as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). This is a genetic engineering study that is hoped to tweak cocoa plants to be able to survive in drier and hotter climate.
Even Greater Hope (Lest It be Folly)
Some scientists are either in denial or have hope for us all. Ingrid Parker — professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz — has declared that not only can cocoa plants be produced in other parts of the world, chocolate sightings would have to be out of the question for at least 50 years before it could be declared extinct.
Also, he pointed out that NOAA research only uses the phrase “considerable reduction”, not extinction. While the idea of guzzling down genetically engineered chocolate does not appeal to most of us (suppose it should taste metallic!), the problem of global warming has surely gotten out of hands now that chocolate is at stake. Mars pledged $1 billion in 2017 for its “Sustainability in a Generation” project — the company aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of its business by more than 60% by the year 2050. We hope the rest of the world will follow.