New Research Says Chocolate Could Be Extinct by 2050

Maybe start hoarding now. Photo: Diana Miller/Getty Images/Cultura Exclusive

Here’s some climate-change news that President Trump will have trouble ignoring: Earth’s junk food is in danger of losing a crucial ingredient. Scientists now predict that chocolate — which POTUS will sometimes eat to celebrate making important military decisions — could become impossible to grow in the coming decades because of hotter temperatures and less rain in regions where cacao plants are cultivated. The year 2050 is when they predict that people will be forced to satisfy a sweet tooth with toffee or caramels seasoned with tears.

Like coffee plants and wine grapvines, cacao is a finicky tree. It only grows well in rain-forest land that’s within 20 degrees of the equator. Half of the world’s chocolate is produced in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where the plants thrive at around 300 to 850 feet above sea level and under dependably humid weather conditions. But by 2050, researchers say that rising temperatures could push the optimal cultivation zone “uphill,” to as high as 1,500 feet.

Thankfully, a team from UC Berkeley is working on a possible fix. It’s actually part of a new partnership that Mars announced last year. The M&M’s and Snickers maker is investing $1 billion into a variety of efforts to fight climate change, and the scientists in a plant-genomics program at Berkeley hope to develop hardier cacao plants that won’t wilt or rot at their current altitude.

Berkeley’s gene-editing technology, called CRISPR, has been in the works for a while, though when it gets attention, it’s almost always for the potential to eliminate genetic diseases or (sort of on the extreme end of this) build “designer babies.” But creator Jennifer Doudna tells Business Insider that the “most profound” application will likely be saving food.

New Research Says Chocolate Could Be Extinct by 2050