Chocolate lovers may want to brace themselves for this bit of news: scientists predict that the way climate change is going now, the Earth may force cacao plants to extinction by 2050.
A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the changing temperatures around the planet will make it close to impossible to grow cacao plants in the next 30 years, hence a potential halt in chocolate production, CBS reports.
Doug Hawkins, a British researcher, said,
More than 90 per cent of the global cocoa crop is produced by smallholders on subsistence farms with unimproved planting material.
Cacao plants only grow in specific locations that are around 20 degrees to the north or south of the equator. Here, rainforest soil makes the plants thrive because of stable temperatures, high humidity, heavy rains, rich soil and protection from heavy winds. NOAA says that the extreme effects of climate change will eventually push this ideal cacao-growing climate into higher, less suitable regions.
Researchers said that more than 89% of the current growing areas for chocolate will not be good for the plants by 2050 due to lessening humidity around the equator.
As a response, scientists at the University of California are partnering with candy manufacturer Mars to change the genes of the cacao plant in order to make it hardier. The team hopes to use the gene-editing technique CRISPR to coax cacao plants into becoming more resilient to changing weather conditions globally. Myeong-Je Cho, the director of plant genomics at UCLA, supervises the rows of tiny cacao seedlings in greenhouses at the new biosciences building, Business Insider reports.
Barry Parkin, Mars’ chief sustainability officer, said, “We’re trying to go all in here. There are obviously commitments the world is leaning into but, frankly, we don’t think we’re getting there fast enough collectively.” Mars pledged $1 billion last September 2017 in a project called, “Sustainability in a Generation,” which aims to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 60% by 2050.