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Genetically Modified Chocolate? What's Left?


A recent foreign survey has uncovered the shocking truth, apparently, that women think about chocolate more than sex! Will women think the same way in the future once they realize that the majority of the world's chocolate has been genetically modified?

Researchers working with confectionary giant Mars are scouring the genome of the tree Theobroma cacao to find ways of geneticaly manipulating cocoa beans produced by the plant.

Scientists took two years to unlock the genetic code of the tree and now hope to use the information it contains to alter the quality, flavour and even the nutritional value of the beans which are used to produce chocolate.

"Chocolate will become something quite different in 10-15-20 years and we are on that track now," stated Dr Howard-Yara Shapiro, global director of plant science and research at Mars Incorporated.

Under the guise of increasing flavonals and the health qualities of chocolate, Shaprio and his team are playing the game of genetic roulette as so eloquently defined by GMO researcher Jeffrey Smith.

"It is not something we can deliver tomorrow, but maybe in five years we can. Having the genome will speed up the process because we will be able to locate which genes are responsible for high levels of flavonols and help us select for those plants," said Shapiro.

Dr Shapiro, who is also a professor of environmental sciences at the University of California, persuaded Mars to fund the $10 million project to decode the genome, with the help of computer firm IBM, which analysed the data, and the US Department of Agriculture.

In a little over two years they were able to disentangle the 420 million units of DNA that make up the plant and in an unusual move for a private company.

Traditional breeding techniques can take years to produce trees with the traits they want as thousands of plants must be bred together and then breeders have to wait for the offspring to grow into adult trees before they can see if they have the required physical traits.

Mars said they initially intended to use natural breeding of the cocoa plants rather than genetic engineering to produce new varieties of trees with boosted traits, but its clear they chose the latter due to the speed generated from genetically modified research.

He said: “Rather than having to wait until those trees grow up over five years or so to look at the physical traits of the trees, we can instead take the DNA from the sapling once it sprouts and find out what traits it has.

"It speeds up that screening process hugely.

“We are still going to have to breed millions of trees and evaluate every single one, but we will very carefully and slowly add traits to the plants that will be sent out to the farmers.

There are currently three million tonnes of cocoa produced every year, but the crops are vulnerable to pests and disease, often causing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of damage.

Scientific studies on the health benefits of currently available chocolate have provided mixed results and last week the European Food Safety Authority ruled that manufacturers should not be allowed to advertise these health benefits due to the inconsistent evidence.


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