Climate change could cause chocolate to go extinct within a matter of decades, according to a group of scientists working out of the Innovative Genomics Institute.
Global warming affects many ecosystems around the world, and it hits regions around the equator particularly hard. That is problematic for cacao plants — which are vital for the making of chocolate — because they can only grow within roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator. Location is key for the organisms because they need to be in a climate where temperature, rain, and humidity are constant all year long. Those requirements make it so that nearly half of the world’s chocolate production originates from the West African countries of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.
However, the new study shows those regions could no longer be suitable for growing cacao plants within the next few decades. Scientists estimate that rising temperatures will push today’s chocolate-growing regions more than 1,000 feet uphill into mountainous areas reserved for wildlife. As a result, the plants could be at risk, Tech Times reports.
That is a concerning threat, and to combat it the candy company Mars is working with researchers at the University of California-Berkeley to keep cacao seedlings in refrigerated greenhouses as a way to help them grow into plants that will not wilt or rot at current elevations. If the experiment proves to be successful, cacao farmers would not need to change their location.
In addition, researchers are also testing the gene-editing tool CRISPR in hopes of creating cacao plant DNA that will withstand dryer, warmer climates in the coming years. This is not the first time researchers have worried about cacao plants going extinct, but the threat is steadily growing as climate change continues to worsen. As a result, scientists need to have a plan to save the species should they need to be moved.