As the environment warms and becomes drier due to climate change, cacao plants are expected to disappear, but researchers are hoping that gene editing can help plants adapt to their new circumstances, Business Insider reports.
Currently, it notes that cacao plants grow in a band around the equator where the temperature, humidity, and other factors are fairly constant. But Business Insider says that by 2050, cacao would have to be grown at higher elevations, in spots that are now mostly wildlife preserves.
However, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have teamed up with confectioner Mars to make changes to cacao plants using the CRISPR gene-editing tool to make them less susceptible to rotting or wilting in their current locales under warmer and drier conditions, according to Business Insider. The work is being done at Jennifer Doudna's Berkeley lab, it adds, noting that she suspects CRISPR's greatest use will likely be its application to crops.
"Regardless of which crop the public sees CRISPR successfully used in first, the technology will be a key tool in a growing arsenal of techniques we'll need if we plan to continue eating things like chocolate as the planet warms," Business Insider writes.