London: Chocolates could be extinct by 2050 due to climate change, scientists have warned.
But for those with a sweet tooth, help is at hand: the creation of a genetically modified 'super chocolate'.
According to experts, the cacao tree, which need heavy rainfall for growth, are struggling to grow due to warmer climates. Cacao plants occupy a precarious position on the globe. They can only grow within a narrow strip of rainforest roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator, where temperature, rain, and humidity all stay relatively constant throughout the year.
Over half of the world's chocolate now comes from just two countries in West Africa — Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.
But those areas won't be suitable for chocolate in the next few decades. By 2050, rising temperatures will push today's chocolate-growing regions more than 1,000 feet uphill into mountainous terrain — much of which is currently preserved for wildlife, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
So scientists are exploring the possibility of using the gene-editing technology CRISPR to evolve crops that can survive environmental challenges.
Scientists from the University of California have teamed up with food and candy company Mars to explore CRISPR technique to help tiny cocao seedlings to survive and thrive in the dryer, warmer climate.
The problem is most cocoa is produced by poor families who cannot afford fertilisers and pesticides, the experts noted.
"More than 90 per cent of the global cocoa crop is produced by smallholders on subsistence farms with unimproved planting material," Doug Hawkins, of Hardman Agribusiness -- a London based capital markets advisory services firm -- was quoted as saying to the Sun. "All the indicators are that we could be looking at a chocolate deficit of 100,000 tons a year in the next few years," Hawkins added.