I have been told that I, insert open speech mark, eat like a bird, insert close speech mark. Which really is a nicer way of saying my eating habit’s weird.
But in as much as I may joke with food and skip meals, the constant love of my life has always been chocolate.
Chocolate must have been created by God ready to bring happiness to mankind. There is no better comforter than just diving into a box or jar of chocolate when the world is going cray cray. And do not get the wrong idea, in times of happiness, some chocolate is also always welcome.
This happiness and comfort chocolate provides is probably the reason it bears a romantic ring to its name. Known as Chocolate in English, Schokolade in German and Chocolat in French, you really cannot deny the word is one of minority bearing a romantic nom in these three languages.
So yes, everything was going fine with the world. Things were going on pretty well as long as there were chocolates:
Fuel scarcity? Eat some chocolate and feel better. Power cuts? Take some chocolate and turn on your generator. Heartbreak? Just chill and have some chocolate for the soul. Everything was going to be fine as long as we had chocolates around.
Then the worst happened:
In the early hours of January, the world would change dramatically: chocolates were reported to possibly go extinct.
Like we do most things on the internet, I stumbled upon an article on Forbes titled Could Chocolate Actually Go Extinct in 40 years? What? Chocolates extinct?
Initially thinking the article was metaphorizing an entirely different issue, I read on. And just like the title plainly suggested, chocolates were most likely going extinct.
Going by this report, Cocoa plants, the source of chocolates could be extinct by 2050.
Cocoa plants have been threatened by fungal diseases for years now. And not just that, these plants are also sensitive to climatic changes.
In 2010, according to Forbes, an expert wrote about the infestation of Central American Cocoa plantations by the fungal disease, Witch’s Broom. This spread has raised suspicions among scientists who fear the disease might spread to other parts of the world.
Another factor to consider is the current available and trusted suppliers of Cocoa. The number dwindling to a mere three countries, Indonesia, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. While the world can count on the two West African countries, for now, one would wonder what happens in the near future.
Scientists have predicted that in the near two decades, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire will be hitting as high as 37.0° F, a definite unfavourable condition for the Cocoa plants.
False story: Chocolate’s fine after all?
While still going through the acceptance stage of possibly losing chocolates, something interesting happened. Three days after Business Insider and then Forbes took up the possible chocolate extinction story, a counter-story sprung up.
Published by some websites, more notably(by myself) Science Alert, the chocolate article had been exaggerated.
According to the site:
‘The main focus of the story is actually on how scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, are experimenting with CRISPR gene editing to see how they can tweak cacao – the plant used to make chocolate.”
And although Forbes contributor, Bruce .Y. Lee had also mentioned Mars’ partnership with CRISPR scientist Dr Jennifer Doudna under the University of California Berkeley to produce more endurable cocoa, articles like his were dismissed with a self-righteous ending phrase:
”But we should also be careful not to take every scary headline at face value.’
Mars to the rescue?
Although there are varying articles online concerning the possible chocolate extinction, one part of the narrative remains consistent. The constant is steps to address the fragility of the cocoa plant.
Chocolate giant Mars, has pledged US$1 billion as part of a sustainability drive. The intent of the sustainable research initiative being to create more fungal and climatic resistant cocoa plants. A feat very much possible with the help of the CRISPR technology.
While we might have trust issues believing information on the internet, the relief this concluding article offers us is the joy that chocolates might well remain immortal.
Three days ago, tops news sites would report a disheartening update. Bananas were reportedly at the brink of going extinct.
A lot of people may not know but fifty years ago, the world had experienced the first banana extinction. The Gros Michel species of banana would be declared commercially extinct in 1965. The cause of the banana ghosting was linked to Panama disease.
After much sort-out solutions, the banana industry settled for Cavendish cultivar, an inferior species of bananas.
This global inclusion of the Cavendish cultivar bananas is the reason why the commonly available fruits are mostly similar.
In 1990, the fungal disease under a different name: Tropical Race 4 would hit Malaysia. TP4 would continue to spread across south-east Asia, through Australia and finally settle in Africa in 2013.
In the final paragraphs of a CNN expose on the banana crisis, the news site is quoted saying:
”Ultimately, history could well repeat itself and prompt banana growers to look for a new alternative. There is no good candidate at the moment, but hybrids and GMOs are being considered.”
The Madagascan banana might well be the saviour for retaining a rich species of the fruit. This is because this distinct species having large seeds in the middle has been researched to be immune to the Panama disease.
The problem however with this budding solution is the only available mature Madagascan banana trees in Madagascar has been pinned to five.
And quite depressingly, in Fox’s expose, the concluding paragraphs says:
‘For now, you will likely still see bananas at your local grocery store. But if disease spreads before researchers successfully cross-breed the fruit, then the popular Cavendish banana may be hard to find — and eventually, the fruit could disappear altogether.”
Just like life was few minutes before you began reading this article, you may well find chocolates, bananas, avocados, strawberries, maple syrup, soybeans, rice, wheat, maize, wine grapes and coffee at your local markets, supermarkets and stores right now.
But while we might dive in the temporary well of these available foods, it would also be wise for us to think about the environment and sustainable methods in preserving climatic conditions.
One of these key sustainability steps scientists suggest is caring for the environment. This means that reckless practices like consuming products in single-use plastics should be avoided. This emancipation was drawn in this year’s edition of World Environment Day.
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Image Credits: Chocolate, Serious Eats