If you are one of those people who can't imagine a world without chocolate, you might want to sit down for this because we have some not-so-sweet news: Experts are predicting chocolate could be extinct as early as 2050. As in "gone forever," thanks to climate change.
Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed a few years back that cacao plants, which have seeds used to make chocolate and cocoa products, will disappear in the next few decades due to warmer and dryer weather conditions. Not cool, right?
But before you totally freak out and invest your life savings stocking up on all things chocolate, there is still hope: Mars candy company has joined forces with the University of California Berkley, and they think they might be able to save the future of cacao crops.
Here's the deal: Cacao plants can't be grown just anywhere. According to Business Insider UK, the finicky plants can only grow in "rainforested land roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator, where temperature, rain and humidity all stay relatively constant throughout the year." That's why more than half the world's chocolate inventory hails from two West African countries — Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.
But due to global warming, the rising temperatures in those regions won't be suitable for cacao in the next few decades and crops will have to be pushed 1,000 feet uphill into the mountains if they hope to survive. Even more problematic? Most of that terrain is preserved for wildlife.
So scientists from Mars and UC Berkley are using a new technology called CRISPR (which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) to modify the DNA of plants, genetically tweaking them so they can survive the warmer temperatures. Currently, rows of the tiny green cacao seedlings are planted in refrigerated greenhouses in the school's new biosciences building. The hope is that they will survive and thrive in the dryer, warmer climate.
If the experiment works out, chocolate lovers around the globe can relax a little bit. If not, let's hope global warming is taken seriously — for the sake of our chocolate if not the actual planet!
What Do YOU Think?
Are you surprised that chocolate could go extinct by 2050? Are there other food products you believe will also be in jeopardy? Should we be investing more money in research for projects such as this one? Share your thoughts in the comments!