As far as modern civilization knows, Earth is the only planet with chocolate. Sure, it has an atmosphere, it’s located perfectly relative to the sun, it’s mostly water, and it’s the only planet thus far where life is possible. But it can all (ahem, chocolate) go extinct by 2050! Terrific right? But wait, scientists are here to save the day.
One of the best things about Earth is that its soil is able to grow the plants that can be turned into chocolate. Probably not for long, though.
Why? Well, blame climate change.
Climate Change Will Erase Chocolate From This Planet
Cacao plants are in danger of disappearing by 2050. The main problem with the plant is that it’s only able to grow within a very limited strip of land located roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator. In growing cacao plants, location is key. At the aforementioned place, temperature, rain, and humidity remain constant all year long. As a result, nearly half of the world’s chocolate production originates from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, two West African countries.
In the next few decades, however, those areas won’t be suitable for growing cacao plants. By 2050, rising temperatures will push present-day chocolate-growing regions over 1,000 feet uphill — areas populated with mountains, much of which is reserved for wildlife, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As a result, the plants could potentially be put at risk.
So, what’s being done to prevent the catastrophic disappearance of cacao plants from happening in the next few decades? The report says that candy company Mars has collaborated with University of California-Berkeley scientists to keep cacao seedlings in refrigerated greenhouses, with the hope that they can grow into cacao plants that won’t wilt or rot at present-day elevations. If the experiment is successful, cacao plant farmers wouldn’t need to relocate their farms to grow the plant.
The Role Of CRISPR In Cacao Plants
To do this, the scientists are using CRISPR, a highly controversial gene-editing tool. They hope to manipulate the DNA of cacao plants to make them withstand dryer, warmer climates in the years to come. It’s been used to alter crops and make them cheaper and more reliable.
So, should you worry about cacao plants going extinct? Probably not. Actually, this isn’t the first time there’s been panic on the extinction of chocolate. Back in 2014, a handful of reports said chocolate could disappear as soon as 2020, which were ultimately debunked. Even still, it was proven that droughts around the globe did lead to the longest streak of chocolate deficits in 50 years.