Science

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Richard Drew/AP
Visitors examine a theobroma cacao tree
at the New York Botanical Garden.

Mars, Inc. to Spend $10 Million to Save Chocolate

June 30, 2008 12:39 PM
by Isabel Cowles
Mars, Inc. has offered researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture a $10 million budget to research the genome of the cacao plant, in hopes of protecting it against fungus and improving its flavor.

30-Second Summary

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The future of chocolate is in the balance, and Mars, Inc. intends to do something about it.

The candy company offered the U.S. Department of Agriculture a $10 million budget to research the cacao plant genome.

Decoding the cacao plant’s genes would allow researchers to help safeguard it against fungus, accelerate its rate of production and improve its flavor.

Chocolate is currently threatened by two major types of fungus: witches’ broom and frosty pod rot, both of which eat away at the seeds of the cacao plant, from which chocolate is made.

“Fungal diseases are estimated to cost cocoa farmers an estimated $700 million annually,” the Associated Press reports.

The Mars-funded study will last five years, and will include assistance from IBM. Said one IBM representative, “The genome revolution is underway and there is a way in which that revolution can be leveraged to have an economic impact.” Once the results are available, they will be released publicly, so that everyone, even Mars, Inc.’s competitors, will have access to them.

Headline Links: ‘Scientists to unlock sweet secrets of chocolate’

Reference: More about chocolate

Threats to chocolate
The history and manufacture of chocolate

Related Topic: Scientists scramble to save the banana

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