Opinion: Cacao Biotechnology Hits a Sweet Spot 

There are a number of reasons that genetic modification in agriculture got turned sideways in the court of public opinion. I won’t review them all here … most of you have lived it and lamented it for all of the past 20 years.


Despite Herculean efforts by the industry’s many stakeholders through a variety of imaginative campaigns and sheer force of will (I see you Kevin Folta … keep fighting, my friend), it feels like the pendulum hasn’t even managed to swing back to the middle.

Still, we need to keep battling for science and truth. And one other really important thing: Shedding light on biotechnology as a process akin to an important breakthrough in medical science. Not designed to make some entity a lot of money, but to save an entire industry from ruin.

I was thinking about all this as I was consuming some chocolate bars sent to me from Ethos Chocolate. I’m not sure how they knew I’d be so receptive to free chocolate, but we’ll leave that for another day.

Opinion: Cacao Biotechnology Hits a Sweet Spot 

Ethos was created by “A Fresh Look,” a non-profit cooperative of 1,600 farmers from across the agriculture spectrum.

I’d heard stories about concerns with cacao orchards going extinct over the next 30 years due to environmental factors including climate change. But I was not aware of the substantial role that biotechnology can play in creating a cacao plant capable of overcoming these factors, sustaining a critical industry in the Dominican Republic and, of course, allowing me to continue enjoying Cocoa Puffs in the morning. If I want.

Ethos was created by “A Fresh Look,” a non-profit cooperative of 1,600 farmers from across the agriculture spectrum. The idea is to tell the story of a beloved but threatened agriculture product, cacao, and how it might gain redemption through the science of genetic modification. And deliver that message with the chocolate that, of course, I already consumed.

And it’s not just straight chocolate. They offer three blended flavors, including papaya, orange, and apple. What all these have in common, of course, is that biotechnology has (or will) intersect with all of these crops.

Biotechnology literally resurrected the papaya industry in Hawaii. Apples are earmarked for enhancements that will slow browning and significantly reduce waste. And the onerous threat to oranges through citrus greening is ripe (pun intended) for innovation via biotechnology.

Ethos ran a campaign to distribute the chocolate for free beginning in early February through Valentine’s Day, and they had no trouble running out of the daily allotment … it is chocolate, after all.

But what a great concept for championing science. Congratulations to the farmers at A Fresh Look for a remarkable idea. And if you have any leftovers to share, you know where to find me.

If you want more information, visit www.ethos-chocolate.com.

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