Fact Check: Is Chocolate Really Going ‘Extinct’ by 2050?
An alarming recent report by Business Insider claimed that chocolate would be extinct 40 years from now.
The story, which went viral, claimed that cacao plants are slated to disappear due to warmer weather and poor moisture conditions by as early as 2050.
Although climate change is an issue that concerns everybody, the report may not be entirely accurate.
The later half of the report talked about a new technology called CRISPR which seeks to tweak DNA of cacao plants to prevent diseases that are a potential threat to the production of chocolate.
Scientists at the University of California are teaming up with Mars, best known for their Snickers bars, to try to save the crop before it's too late, the report said, adding that the initiative will be headed by Myeong-Je Cho, the director of plant genomics at the Innovative Genomics Institute at UC Berkeley.
Soon after the Business Insider article was published, a press release by UC Berkeley clarified the matter and said:
Brian Staskawicz, Professor of Plant and Microbial Biology who works with Cho to generate sustainable crops from climate change and plant pathogens said, “Cacao can be afflicted with several devastating conditions. We’re developing CRISPR editing technologies to alter the DNA in cacao plants to become more resistant to both viral and fungal diseases.”
The BI report also referred to an NOAA report from 10 February 2016, which actually said that the leading producers are Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia “will experience a 3.8°F (2.1°C) increase in temperature by 2050, and a marked reduction in suitable cultivation area” under a “business as usual scenario, quoting the ‘Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability’ report.
However, there are several other regions where cacao is cultivate such as Brazil and Ecuador, Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, etc.
The authors continued, “These changes in climatic suitability are predicted to take place over a time period of almost 40 years, so they will mostly impact the next rather than the current generation of cocoa trees and farmers. In other words, there is time for adaptation.”
So although our favourite chocolate isn’t going to disappear like the report said, unfavourable weather conditions may affect its production and its price if we don’t take global warming seriously.