50 percent of the world’s chocolate is harvested in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, but thanks to global climate change, it’s become increasingly harder for the cacao tree, the plant that spawns cocoa beans, to survive in those regions. The crop is only capable of thriving in the lower story of evergreen rainforests, but rising temperatures are drying up soil, which prevents the cacao tree from growing. As a result, farmers have tried moving their crops to higher ground, despite the smaller availability of space and lower success rates of growth.
Ghana’s cocoa board COCOBOD, is well aware of these issues, but they’ve got a lot on their plate. They’re not only trying to combat global climate change, but rampant fungal disease as well. (Apparently, chocolate has a LOT of enemies.) Joseph Boahen Aidoo, chief executive of COCOBOD, has called upon the nations’ top health officials to collect samples of the current diseased pods so they study the best ways to rehabilitate the crop.
Demand for chocolate already massively outstrips supply. The average westerner eats 286 bars of chocolate every year, because, yeah, it’s delicious. But it’s also incredibly unsustainable, especially if we keep gobbling down the stuff at such an alarming rate.
So what’s being done to help prevent this potential culinary crisis? Scientists at University of California at Berkeley are working with the Mars, Incorporated (you know, the folks behind M&Ms and Snickers) to genetically modify the crop so that is could grow in alternative climates. New technology known as CRISPR is being used to alter the plant’s DNA and if it’s successful, seedlings could be farmed in in other geographic areas.