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Once the awe of a new year wore off, dwellers of the internet and lovers of all things sweet were confronted with a tragic truth: chocolate was to go extinct by as early as 2050. It was an early 2018 nightmare.
Business Insider reported that, due to rising temperatures and drier climates, cacao plants would cease to exist in roughly 40 years. Without the dewy, temperate environments necessary for growth, the plants were to go the way of the Tasmanian Tiger. The article continued to detail efforts on the part of science to remediate this potential catastrophe. With funding from Mars (yes, the chocolate company), the University of California is developing a modified strain of cacao that could survive increasingly warmer climates. A team of scientists is working at a genetic level to create the sturdier, acclimated plant. In fact, they’re using CRISPR, same DNA-tweaking technology used to make low-fat pigs.
But in the days since the Business Insider article, it seems the facts—and ensuing viral hysteria—may have been misplaced. It turns out, the report was quoting a study conducted in early 2016. Hardly breaking news. And while the study does point to rising temperatures and dips in humidity as dangerous to the global growth of cacao, by no means does it employ a fear-mongering rhetoric.
Most of the world’s chocolate comes from either Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, or Indonesia. Climate and its shifting mores have had adverse effects on the chocolate production in these countries, but according to the study, penned by Michon Scott and published on Climate.gov, “with planning and adaptation, cacao farmers can keep producing our favorite treat.” Some of these changes include shifting cultivation areas to higher altitudes or a Brazilian farming approach known as cabruca, the process of replanting rainforest trees that provide cacao plants with shade. The efforts between Mars and the University of California are also among the list of potential solutions.
So while the Business Insider article is technically factual, it’s treatment of the truth proves slightly overwrought. That being said, climate change is a very intense reality for career farmers. Alterations in weather patterns are something they contend with on a daily basis as their industry continues to mutate around them. The original study acknowledges the unstable nature of today's agriculture economy, but remains optimistic: With a little forward thinking and the correct processes put in place, chocolate shouldn’t be going anywhere. As for bananas and maple syrup, well, that's another story.