January 16, 2006
Money well spent?
September 30, 2004
absolutely. demand is far outstripping supply, and in the next 5 years sustainability will be an absolutely amazingly large issue for the industry. historically, the crops of entire countries have been decimated by disease (think witch's broom in brazil - it's been over a decade and they've STILL not approached anything resembling recovery..). Indonesia is getting whacked right now by a disease. If africa experiences any significant pestilant outbreak, it's a harbinger of doom for the industry. it's a responsible approach that the entire industry will benefit from, not just mars. understanding what the weaknesses are that expose the plant to the disease is a great way to determine how to prevent or treat the disease in the first place. Think of it analagous to modern antibiotic research (the analogy breaks down if we apply these learning prophylactically, obviously, as antibiotic resistance is a concern due to overuse/inappropriate use).
disclaimer - i worked as a genetic engineer for the largest corn company in the world, so i'm not entirely removed from the situation. i do understand the concerns, limitations, and capabilities fairly well, however.
October 13, 2009
Originally posted by Marcellus
Money well spent?
(context - Mars is actively researching the cocoa genome in an attempt to sequence it completely)
Definitely well spent - the more we know about the impact of chocolate genetics on flavour, disease resistance, etc, the more we can breed new chocolates that improve on these fronts. However, there are 2 significant potential problems as well.
How much of the research that Mars will share with others is unclear. I doubt that they'll release all the findings, and worse still the releases that do happen could easily be, as so often happens - in the form of predigested conclusions, not the raw data, so that third parties would have to accept Mars' interpretations of what given genetics mean. With the people perhaps best placed to take advantage of the findings to produce higher-quality chocolate - quality plantations and producers - being generally small, the result would be that ironically the very people who could use the data are the people whose access to it were most restricted.
We are all aware of the issues involving GMO's. I won't belabour that point. But certainly as the article implies genetic research does imply the possibility of GMO chocolate - for better or for worse. Without clear consensus on the actual value to people of GMO's I think we must treat this possibility as problematic in future.
Therefore I think much of the benefit of this research is crucially dependent on how Mars plans to use it.