Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sweet genetic research

Not a new story here, but one I hadn't gotten around to discussing. Mars, the candy maker, along with IBM and the US Dept. of Agriculture, is embarking on a five-year project to sequence and analyze the entire genome of -- cocoa! That's a government project I can almost believe in! (Although I'm sure the USDA's participation unnecessarily raises the cost and reduces the efficiency.

The purpose here is to figure out what genetic traits are associated with pest, disease and drought tolerance. Apparently most cocoa is grown by some 6.5 million families working small farms about 70 percent in Africa, so having a user of cocoa with money is the best way to get this done. Using computers is expected to shorten the time it takes to come up with a new strain of tree with superior properties from five to seven years down to 18 months.

I have nothing in general against genetic engineering. But working for better chocolate? That's change I can believe in!

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