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Terry H. Schwadron

May 14, 2018

I’m forgetting about most of the Trump White House this week, or at least for today. It seems clear they have a problem thinking things through, whether just learning that tariffs against Chinese goods have an affect on the American manufacturing supply chain or not realizing that Iran would turn to China, Russia and Europe to try to disarm the U.S. breach of the nuclear treaty.

Instead, I’m thinking happier thoughts, dealing with a new knee, and hoping for some good from the world — through Chocolate.

If the Trump administration has no other reason to turn to Science, we finally have a real case that even Donald Trump can understand.

Never mind North Korea, were Trump to accept Science as offering useful information, he could be the one to save the fate of chocolate.

Talk about broadening the base. . . he could Tweet forever about it. All it would take would be a little belief that science can not only teach us about Global Warming, but help provide a way out of a bad side effect.

There probably is no bigger issue among the personal desires of Americans — and audiences worldwide — than the guarantee that we continue to have access to chocolate. More than Diet Coke, I’d bet. More than almost anything but sex. After all, chocolates are a $100 billion a year business worldwide. Maybe Trump would like to lure chocolate makers to move their businesses to the United States.

While everyone eats, drinks and celebrates chocolate, most of the world’s cacao plants, source of the raw material for chocolate productions, grows in a swath 20 miles on either side of the equator. Indeed, half of the world’s cacao plants are in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, two West African countries.

Therein lies the problem. While Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt, the Republican head of the EPA may not accept climate change, it is the warming of the earth that will put cacao plants in the crosshairs of the environmental change. In short, within 40 years, it is expected that the climate will be too warm to sustain cacao plants.

As the e-mag Tech Times said, “As far as modern civilization knows, Earth is the only planet with chocolate. Sure, it has an atmosphere, it’s located perfectly relative to the sun, it’s mostly water, and it’s the only planet thus far where life is possible.” At least for cacao plants.

Of course some would argue that it is only chocolate that makes Life possible.

By 2050, rising temperatures will push present-day chocolate-growing regions over 1,000 feet uphill — areas populated with mountains, much of which is reserved for wildlife, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As a result, the plants could potentially be put at risk, said Tech Times. (What will happen to Valentine’s Day?)

Hey, there could be demonstrations in the street. People will put up with a lot from government, but not a chocolate limit. So, the question is: Does Science have an answer?

Both companies and biological researchers basically say, “yes,” but you have to believe in Science to understand why.

For at least three millennia, cocoa has been cultivated, first in Mexico, Central and North and South America before migrating to West Africa. The Aztecs made it into a beverage, known as nahuati or “bitter water.” The chocolate-making process remained unchanged until the industrial revolution brought about mechanical mills to squeeze out cocoa butter which could be manipulated into durable chocolate.

About 35 percent of all chocolate sales are in Western Europe, with the Swiss leading the way. On average, every Swiss citizen consumed about 8.8 kilograms of chocolate in 2015, with the United States coming in at fifth position at 5.5 kilograms.

Now, with disaster looming, candy company Mars has collaborated with University of California-Berkeley scientists to keep cacao seedlings in refrigerated greenhouses, with the hope that they can grow into cacao plants that won’t wilt or rot at present-day elevations. If the experiment is successful, cacao plant farmers wouldn’t need to relocate their farms to grow the plant.

To accomplish this, scientists are using CRISPR,a highly controversial gene-editing tool, to manipulate the DNA of cacao plants to withstand dryer, warmer climates in the decades ahead.

CRISPR has been used to alter crops and make them cheaper and more reliable.

A couple of years ago, chocolates and cacao plants had to survive droughts in Africa, and we did go through a big worldwide chocolate deficit.

For the record, scientists, curious about the love of chocolate, have tried to probe just why. The closest that they have come, was to link choco-holism to a specific, chemical signature programmed into a person’s metabolism, the chemical processes that define digestion. Tests by scientists at the Nestlé Research Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland (think they had any interest in the result?) and Imperial College London show that chocolate lovers seem to show a specific metabolic profile; some people have it and some don’t, the researchers reported in the Journal of Proteome Research. The research sample was small, and, curiously, all male, allegedly to inure results from variations in women’s appetites linked with monthly biological cycles. (Wow!)

Saving chocolate could indeed Make America Great.


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