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Reforming the cocoa bean genome

Janet Babin Jun 27, 2008
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Reforming the cocoa bean genome

Janet Babin Jun 27, 2008
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TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: The world’s cocoa supply is under threat.
But there’s no need to hoard the Hershey’s just yet. Government scientists and the candy industry are coming to the rescue. Janet Babin reports from the Marketplace Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.


Janet Babin: It’s more than inflation that’s upped the cost of those M&M’s. The cocoa tree — that’s the tree that produces cocoa beans — is under siege from drought and disease. The lost crops cost farmers about $700 million a year. Short supply has doubled bean prices in many places. To improve productivity, scientists will sequence the cocoa bean genome.

Raymond Schnell is a geneticist with the USDA’s Ag Research Service:

Raymond Schnell: What we’re trying to do is produce more disease=resistant varieties of cacao that are highly productive and have the flavor attributes that are needed by the confectionary industry.

Most cocoa beans are grown outside the U.S. So why does the U.S. government research them? Schnell says it’s because 65,000 people here work in the candy industry.

Mars Inc. will contribute 10 million to fund the cocoa bean genome project.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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