Mars candy company teams with University of California to save chocolate

Scientists say that the cacao plant, from which we get chocolate, is in danger of going extinct by early 2050.
Mars, Inc., which includes candy brands such as Snickers and M&M’s, is working to preserve the cacao plant. According to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the crop responsible for the world’s chocolate is in danger of going extinct as early as 2050 due to climate change.

Much of the world’s chocolate comes from West Africa, where the cacao plant thrives due to ideal climate in the rainforest. Unfortunately, those conditions may be in danger due to rising temperatures. Therefore, Mars is helping to fund efforts by University of California-Berkeley scientists to research and develop a new method of growing the crop.

According to these scientists, as Earth’s temperatures rise, cacao farmers will be forced to move to higher elevations where conditions would not be ideal for crop growth. University of California-Berkeley is using CRISPR technology to modify the cacao plant’s DNA. The genetically modified plant would be able to survive drier and hotter climates, allowing cacao farmers to stay in place.

A cacao plant in Ghana, West Africa.
The cacao plant is a particularly vulnerable crop because of the conditions its needs. It can only grow about 20 degrees north and south of the equator, and needs uniform temperatures, high humidity, abundant rain, nitrogen-rich soil, and protection from wind.

“We're trying to go all in here. There are obviously commitments the world is leaning into but, frankly, we don't think we're getting there fast enough collectively,” says Barry Parkin, Mars' chief sustainability officer.