A chocolate shortage is on the horizon.
Climate scientists predict the world will run into a chocolate shortage in the next 30 to 40 years due to warming temperatures and excessive consumption. Fingers are pointed at gluttony and global warming.
Cacao plants grow in bands of narrow rainforests where the weather stays consistently wet and humid year round. Climate experts, according to Metro, predict increasing temperatures will impede the survival of cacao plants, pushing cacao farms in chocolate-producing countries such as Ghana uphill into mountainous terrains protected by wildlife refuges, which could potentially disrupt existing wildlife.
Last year's predictions of chocolate consumption were much lower than expected, pointing to an increased demand for chocolate in the future. Cocoa stockpiles are dwindling faster than they are being replenished, and current farming methods cannot handle the increased chocolate production.
A 100,000-ton chocolate deficit was predicted by Doug Hawkins, managing director of Hardman Agribusiness, who told Mail Online that 90 percent of the global cocoa crop is produced by small farms with "unimproved planting material." Farmers have even resorted to pushing into protected forests to meet the demand, which Hawkins called "destruction by chocolate."
Luckily, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that climate change will affect the next generation of cacao plants, giving us time for adaptation. A predicted 89.5 percent of land used for cacao cultivation will no longer be viable by 2050. NOAA suggested breeding cacao seeds resistant to drought and using a Brazilian method in which additional trees are planted to provide cacao trees with shade.
In hopes of reducing its carbon footprint, candy company Mars pledged $1 billion to University of California Berkeley's biosciences lab to modify the DNA of cacao plants. A new effort by UC Berkeley is using emerging genetic engineering technology called CRISPR-Cas9 to help save future cacao crops from extinction.
UC Berkeley's director of plant genomics, Myeong-Je Cho, is tasked to engineer cacao seedlings to survive different climates by locating specific pieces of DNA, snipping and replacing them with altered DNA. Using the gene-editing technique CRISPR, the team hopes to make cacao plants more resilient to a warming climate.