Why do I suspect that if chocolate were genetically engineered it would come out vanilla?
On Sep 15, 2010, at 9:37 PM, Stuart Newman wrote:
> It would be unfortunate (and not unexpected) if it took this turn. But MAS
> itself is a benign use of genetic information in agriculture.
> On Thu, 16 Sep 2010 08:22:35 +1200, Robert Mann <[log in to unmask]>
>> Within this article, reporter Yang states
>> "The goal of the genome project is not to genetically
>> engineer chocolate. "
>> It is then asserted that the goal is marker-assisted
>> selection (MAS), which is not GM but merely a valuable method for
>> speeding the choices among progeny in breeding programmes.
>> But it is quite likely that gene-jiggering of the cocoa plant
>> is, at least vaguely, planned; at that rate, MAS would be a cover
>> story, not false but an incomplete account of what is intended.
>> With DNA of chocolate nearly decoded by scientists, could sweeter treats
>> By Jia Lynn Yang
>> Washington Post staff writer
>> Wednesday, September 15, 2010;
>> Scientists have painstakingly mapped the DNA of human beings, corn,
>> turkeys - and now chocolate.
>> A group of researchers led by McLean candy company Mars is nearly
>> done sequencing the genome of the cacao tree, which produces the
>> seeds used to make cocoa. The information will speed up the process
>> for creating a stronger tree that is more resistant to disease and
>> easier to grow for millions of farmers.
>> And a better tree, they hope, means more chocolate for everyone for
>> years to come.
>> Rather than keep the delicious secrets to itself, the company behind
>> M&M's and Snickers has decided to share the information with the
>> "The information is so rich and so accurate we felt there was no
>> reason to hold back," said Howard-Yana Shapiro, a Santa-bearded
>> chocolate scientist whose technical title is global staff officer of
>> plant science and research at Mars.
>> The goal of the genome project is not to genetically engineer
>> chocolate. Rather it's to improve the traditional method of breeding
>> trees, a laborious, trial-and-error process in which researchers try
>> to isolate the sweetest traits and replicate them. That can take as
>> long as 15 years to complete.
>> With a map of the cacao tree's genetic makeup, scientists could cut
>> that process down to two or three years. For instance, they could
>> extract the DNA of a young tree and see whether it has the right
>> genes for resisting diseases instead of waiting years for the tree to
>> But enough about the science. Bottom line: Will the new information
>> result in better-tasting chocolate?
>> Perhaps, Shapiro said. He noted that some discerning eaters have
>> complained that the quality of cocoa has fallen in recent years, but
>> no one knows whether that is because of soil, weather or genetics.
>> At least one of the keys to flavor is the fatty acid content of the
>> cocoa. "Now finally, we have insight on how to stabilize it and
>> raise it over time," Shapiro said.
>> The world's cocoa supply is grown mostly by small farmers because the
>> process is so laborious.
>> It begins with picking a pod off a cacao tree. The farmer then splits
>> open the pod and scrapes the seeds out. Then the beans are fermented
>> for a number of days, which is when they get their tasty chocolate
>> flavor. Lastly the beans have to be dried.
>> The cacao plant is especially hard to grow because it is highly
>> vulnerable to pests and disease. According to Mars, farmers suffer
>> $700 million to $800 million worth of damage every year.
>> More than 70 percent of the world's cocoa supply comes from West
>> Africa, where the biggest source is Cote d'Ivoire, followed by Ghana.
>> Indonesia is the world's third-largest producer.
>> Brazil used to be one of the top producers of cacao, until a fungus
>> called witches'-broom struck the crop in the late 1980s and
>> devastated the country's industry.
>> "It was a wake-up call," Shapiro said. "Imagine what would happen if
>> something hit Africa."
>> The United States does not produce much cocoa, only a small amount in
>> Hawaii and Puerto Rico. But because domestic companies such as Mars
>> and Hershey's rely so much on the ingredient, the U.S. Department of
>> Agriculture has been trying to breed a better cacao tree since 1999.
>> In 2008, Mars, in partnership with
>> <http://projects.washingtonpost.com/post200/2007/IBM/>IBM and the
>> USDA, began sequencing the cacao genome. Mars committed $10 million
>> to the project and decided to share preliminary results with the
>> public three years ahead of schedule.
>> During their work sequencing the cocoa genome, researchers learned a
>> few things about the raw makeup of chocolate.
>> Its DNA is much easier to read compared with other crops, allowing
>> scientists to yield more information about the cacao tree's
>> characteristics, said David Kuhn, a USDA research molecular biologist
>> based in Miami.
>> So eating too much chocolate may be an indulgence that expands the
>> waist. But, as it turns out, Kuhn said, "it's a very well-behaved