Hershey & Mars Engage In Locking Chocolate Genetics
A group of French and American scientists recently tracked the DNA sequence of the Criollo, which was domesticated by Mayans some 3000 years ago. The Criollo is the genetic variety of cacao which produces finest quality chocolates.
Criollo is a very old crop, but it is not produced much nowadays because farmers are going for the hybrid crops which produce low quality chocolate and are more disease resistant. This research was published in the current issue of Nature Genetics and the team was headed by Claire Lanaud of the French agricultural research institute, CIRAD, and plant molecular biologist Mark Guiltinan of Penn State in Pennsylvania. Guiltinan suggests that the fine cocoa production is only about 5 % of the total world cocoa production due to low productivity and disease susceptibility. This study was partly financed by Hershey's whereas the sequencing of different variety of cacao tree was financed in part by the rival candy makers Mars.
Hershey's and Mars are locking the chocolate genetics with a hope that the finest cacao trees will be able to yield a lot by resisting the weather conditions and pests. Both candy makers have sweetly waged war over chocolate genetics to identify gene families of the cacao trees. They are in search of DNA's, which protect against alarming weather conditions, diseases and insects to yield robust and high-yielding crops.
In this era when food manufacturers ignore quality, the talk of quality from the candy makers - who are locking chocolate genetics may baffle you. At the first instant you may think whether they are really bothered about the quality of the chocolate or they are battling to find the apt farming options, where they will plant the trees that will give them high yields and resistance from pests too. We don't know what will be an end result of this battle waged by the candy makers for locking the chocolate genetics - a high quality chocolate product or high yielding variety of a cacao, which will inspire these chocolate giants to adopt cacao farming as the viable business option. If the earlier is good, then we think other candy makers and other food manufacturers should also follow the suit and look for natural and healthy options. But if the later is the case, then we can say that only these candy makers are going to benefit better.
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