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Sequencing Of Cacao Tree DNA May Lead To More Sustainable Chocolate Production

December 26, 2010: 06:14 PM EST

An international group of scientists has sequenced the DNA of the Criollo tree, a variety of Theobroma cacao used in producing some of the world’s best chocolate. In doing so, they identified genes coding for or leading to chocolate quality, production of flavonoids, potential pest and disease resistance, and production of cocoa butter—a substance valuable in both confections and cosmetics. Low productivity and vulnerability to disease currently limit high-quality cocoa production to less than five percent of worldwide production, though market interest in superior, environmentally-friendly chocolate continues to increase. The results of this work should allow scientists to develop disease-resistant trees that produce more, better, and healthier chocolate—ultimately leading to sustainable cocoa production that benefits both the land the trees are grown on and the farmers who grow them.

Vladimir Shulaev, Daniel J Sargent, Ross N Crowhurst, Todd C Mockler, Otto Folkerts, Arthur L Delcher, Pankaj Jaiswal, Keithanne Mockaitis et al, "The genome of Theobroma cacao", Nature Genetics, December 26, 2010, © Nature Publishing Group, Open Access
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