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What’s the Deal With Chocolate?

Staffer explains how we can save the future of the sweet treat

Photo by Ilana Williams

Ilana Williams, Staffer

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It’s been said that chocolate has been around for almost 4,000 years.

  Before it was known as a delicious treat, it was consumed as a bitter drink. Cacao beans were incredibly valuable and were used a currency. It was only 1,500 years ago the Aztecs and Mayans believed the beans had magical powers.

  In 1828, Coenraad Johannes Van Houten invented the cocoa press, and in 1847, J.S. Fry and Sons came out with the first solid chocolate bar. The more popular companies such as Cadbury and Hershey were also founded in the 1800s.

   So, why the interest in chocolate? Well, before we get to the sad news, let’s talk about some quick facts.

  Did you know that it’s estimated the average American eats 12 pounds of chocolate yearly, and over $75 billion is spent on chocolate worldwide each year?

  What about this? Did you know the smell of chocolate increases brain waves, which triggers relaxation?

 That makes perfect sense to me, because there was a time when I couldn’t eat chocolate, but if I smelled it, I immediately felt calm.

 Then, there’s the fact that eating dark chocolate everyday reduces the risk of heart disease by one-third.

  Oh, that’s great news. Good thing I eat dark chocolate everyday.

  And then, there’s the fact that chocolate has an antibacterial effect on the mouth and protects against tooth decay.

  Hey, that saves us time and money at the dentist, right?

  Okay, let’s get to business.

  As 2017 came to an end, Business Insider published an article called “Chocolate is on Track to go Extinct in 40 Years.”

  How is that possible?

  It’s possible because caceo plants can only grow within a certain part of the world where rain, temperature and humidity is consistent. And most of the world’s chocolate comes from only two  countries in Africa: Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

  However, by 2050, these two locations will not be suitable to grow chocolate, due to rising temperatures, and these chocolate-growing regions will be pushed up to 1,000 feet into mountains, which is being preserved for wildlife.

  Did you also know that it takes about 400 cacao beans to make one pound of chocolate?

  That’s a lot of beans.  

   To save the future of chocolate, scientists at the University of California are teaming up with Mars company to try to save the cacao crop. The company has pledged $1 billion as part of an attempt to reduce the carbon footprint.

  CRISPER, which allows small tweaks to DNA not possible before, is making it easier for the seeds to be purchased. Jennifer Doudna, the Berkeley geneticist who invented CRISPER, is hoping to save chocolate, as well as other plants people need to survive.

  So how does CRISPER work?

  When CRISPER is filled with virus DNA, it will copy into RNA sequences. The enzymes will follow RNA guides throughout the cells, and when it finds a match, the guide RNA will destroy the virus.

  Exploring these new possibilities of gene-editing technology will modify a new version of chocolate and other plants that will survive new challenges.

  If you want to learn more about CRISPER, check out this video: https://www.sciencealert.com/incredible-video-crispr-cas9-editing-dna-real-time-atomic-force-microscopy.

    

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