CRISPR Put to Work to Save Chocolate From Extinction

By: | May 23rd, 2018

Get ready to bear one more impact of global warming. Scientists fear chocolate will run out as early as 2050, because cacao plants are dying in warmer and dryer weather conditions.

Currently, more than half of the world’s chocolate comes from just two West African countries: Ivory Coast and Ghana. However, considering the rise in temperatures, these areas won’t be fit for chocolate production in next 20 to 30 years.

To save the cacao crops from becoming extinct, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, are teaming up with food and candy firm Mars. They are experimenting with the gene-editing technology CRISPR to make crops that can survive the new challenges.

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) allows for tiny, very precise tweaks to DNA, which can make the crops cheaper and more resistant to environmental factors.

UC Berkeley geneticist and inventor of CRISPR Jennifer Doudna, said, “Modern plant breeding relies on random mutations to produce favorable outcomes, and then selects for desirable mutations.”

“This process can be slow and may introduce many undesired and undetected genetic changes along the way. In contrast, CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing allows the creation of plants with just the desired genetic alteration, without adding foreign genetic material.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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