Science to the rescue as climate change threatens chocolate

LAURENT DUBRULE

A young visitor looks at chocolates displayed during the Chocolate fair, in Brussels, Belgium, 06 February 2016. The 3rd Salon du Chocolat of Brussels runs from 05 to 07 February.

But, can we live with the idea of lab-made chocholate?


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Google+
Share on LinkedIn
+

Chocolate could soon become an unaffordable luxury if the temperature rises by 2.5ºC.

A 1ºC is expected by 2030, which will make cocoa beans a luxury item. A 2.5ºC rise is expected by 2050, which will eradicate the cultivation from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where much of the global production is concentrated. That would signal a crisis.

However, a biotechnology research team from Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia has developed cocoa in the laboratory, El Pais reports.

The prototype has been developed through the manipulation of cocoa tissue associated with the plant’s reproduction. The tissue is then infused with a solution and allowed to grow. The bioengineering process takes about a month and leads to the production of a biomass of polyphenols and fatty acids that can be used to make chocolate.

There are still two primary challenges before laboratory chocolate reaches retail distribution.

First, the taste is not as good as the real thing; secondly, the team still needs to work on scaling up the process for the industrial use of the product.

Last, but not least, the team needs to assess the environmental sustainability of the production process. And even when all that is said and done, people will need to build confidence in “Frankenstein chocolate.”

The same team is also working on cloning thaumatin, that is, a protein 2,500 times sweeter than sugar that could allow the making of sweet and calories free cocoa.

A similar challenge to cocoa production is coffee because rising temperatures will mean fewer locations will be hospitable to the plant. Currently, the plant grows in high altitudes, in places like Ethiopia, Colombia, or Peru. But, production may need to move higher up the mountains as temperatures rise. Another approach to recreating food in the laboratory is genetic engineering, allowing the development of more heat-resistant varieties. But, that too is controversial.

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Google+
Share on LinkedIn
+