Biotech Updates

Scientists to Begin Unlocking the Cocoa Genetic Code

June 27, 2008

The US Agricultural Research Service, International Business Machine (IBM) and the US confectionery company Mars have launched a five-year project to sequence the cocoa genome. According to the companies, the research could benefit over 6.5 million farmers around the world. Insights from the cocoa genome could enable scientists to develop cocoa crops with higher yields, pest and disease resistance, and increased water and nutrient use efficiency.

Mars will be funding the research and IBM will be using its supercomputers to analyze the cocoa genome. The research results will be freely available through the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA), which supports agricultural innovation for both humanitarian and small-scale commercial purposes.

Compared to other major crops such as corn, wheat and rice, cocoa has been the subject of little agricultural research. Hardier cocoa varieties may help protect an important social, economic and environmental driver in Africa, where around 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced.

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