Chocolate Could Be Gone By 2040 – CRISPR Can Stop That From Happening

Some worrying news has largely gone under the radar. Most people are entirely unaware of the current threats that are facing the cacao plant. That heavenly plant we need to give us chocolate.

This is a case of such concern, that certain scientists have claimed that if we do not come up with a solution for this problem, chocolate could be gone by the year 2040. Terrifying.

What’s the problem exactly? Well, currently 70% of the world’s supply of cacao is being grown in West Africa. Here, 2 diseases are wreaking havoc on the plants and destroying numerous farms that are producing it.

Cacao Swollen Shoot Virus(CSSV) and Black Rot Pod Rot, a fungus, are the 2 most dangerous threats that are attacking the cacao plant. As of yet, there is currently no treatment or pesticide that can stop the aggressive diseases from destroying the plants.

Not only does that present a very first world problem to us of running out of chocolate, but the producing and farming of cacao employs between 40 and 50 million people worldwide, according to the World Cocoa Foundation. People’s livelihoods are under direct attack from these currently untreatable plant diseases.

CRISPR and Chocolate

To try and help combat this problem, scientists at the Innovate Genomics Institute (IGI) launched a project in 2018 to try and use gene editing technology like CRISPR Cas9, to help create a strain of cacao crops that are completely immune to the CSSV and Black Rot Pod Rot infections.

They are hoping that they can create crops that are innately resident to infection from these diseases and do not require large amount of pesticides to be sprayed on them.

They are hoping that they can edit the DNA of the cacao plants, so that the pathways and weaknesses that these viruses and fungus exploit can be removed and shut down.

Kevin Doxzen from the IGI explains that in relation to trying to combat these threats to the crops that “usually genetic engineering is not the first course of action, it’s often times a last resort, people have tried many other ways of getting rid of these viruses and fungus, but unfortunately with little avail.”.

Scientists are hoping that success with the cacao plant using gene editing, can help pave the way to treating other food crops like rice and wheat to make them better able to withstand biological threats and environmental challenges that are arising because of climate change.

Design Babies, CRISPR and Genetic Engineering

Episode 6 is out now and is exploring the world of gene editing and designer babies. You can hear from from Kevin Doxzen on that and from a range of experts who discuss everything from the inequality genetic engineering could foster to the current applications it’s being used in to treat human diseases like cancer.

Search for Project 10 on all your usual podcast platforms or listen online here.



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