February 24, 2017

Mmm. Gooey. The melting point of chocolate matters. Credit: Letizia Piatti / Flickr Creative Commons

Imagine working with cocoa all day, but never knowing the taste of chocolate. Lecturer Kristy Leissle says that’s the case for many farmers in Ghana, the number two producer of cocoa in the world, where high temperatures stymie the market. A new discovery by biologist Mark Guiltinan and his lab could change things, though, making chocolate less fickle and bringing it to millions - or billions - more people.

Three Takeaways:

  • Guiltinan’s lab at Penn State University discovered the gene that controls chocolate’s melting point in 2015. Now the handful of manufacturers controlling the world's chocolate supply are racing to use his work to bring chocolate to more people around the globe.
  • But climate change has complicated their efforts: Changes in certain growing environments are increasing cocoa prices and putting more pressure on the industry. “Essentially what happens is the ideal place to grow cocoa will shift, and people will have to move where they’re growing cocoa or grow it in different ways,” Guiltinan says.
  • The reason why Ghanaian farmers don’t have much access to chocolate? Mainly, the lack of a cold chain, says Leissle, which is a way to keep chocolate at a safe temperature as it travels. “They (Ghanaians) have some of the same ideas about chocolate as we do here. It’s just a question of access,” she explains. “In the rural areas, cacao farming is a rural endeavor; they do not have the infrastructure you need to support a chocolate industry.”

More Reading:

chocolate, Business, Mark Guiltinan, Kara Miller, Kristy Leissle

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