On September 25, it was reported by Myles Karp for the New York Times that cacao beans are in the midst of another fungal epidemic. As a result of selective selection by humans, the fungus is able to kill a majority of the commercialized cacao strains. Sometime around the 1940s, cacao markets were regulated to only contain a few strains of cacao. Because of this, variation had declined greatly, causing the majority of cacao beans to be unable to adapt to new situations, such as a fungus. This is also not the first time cacao beans had to face such an epidemic. In the early 2000s, the world saw another cacao blight in which cacao production dropped 94%. Not only is this bad for the chocolate market, along with the major chocolate companies, it is also detrimental to the cacao bean farmers. Most farmers are fairly poor, and with a steep decline of cacao cultivation, their standard of living declines with it.
Marijuana traffickers is one possible origin of the current fungal epidemic. While going in between countries, marijuana traffickers could have possibly grabbed some cacao beans from plants along the shore that were infected. Because they were carrying these beans to their next destination, they unintentionally spread the fungus across the water to a new continent. This, in turn, would start the spread of the fungus across the entire continent, waiting for more people or animals to spread the fungus farther until all continents are infected with the same fungal disease.
But worry not! Scientists are frantically working to make sure chocolate does not die with the millennials. A popular company known as CATIE (The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) has set out to create new strains of cacao beans that is adaptable to the current environment, as well as future environments. Even better, the new strains are being produced specifically for adaptability and flavor. Flavor is so much a priority that any bean that tastes less than amazing is thrown out. I think I can speak for all of us in this world when I say that they should definitely be the one holding the Nobel Prize at the end of this year. For genetics? Maybe. For peace? Maybe. For the legacy of the human taste buds? Definitely. If this doesn't give you a little more faith in humanity, try eating a fungus ridden cacao bean and reevaluate. Overall, it is safe to say that this is the type of precaution we should take for every product that is used on a worldwide scale, including cotton, wheat, corn, even animals. In a fight against natural selection and artificial selection, nature will always win.
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