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Sep 15, 2010

Cacao Genome Sequence Completed - Promotes Sustainable Agriculture - Research Undertaken By USDA, Mars, U.S. Universities & Labs

Cacao Pods
courtesy of USDA, ARS, Keith Weller
On 15 September 2010 the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a press release announcing the preliminary completion of the sequenced genome for the cacao tree. In the future, this may result in a sustainable “supply of high-quality cocoa to the $17 billion U.S. chocolate industry and protect the livelihoods of small farmers around the world by speeding up development, through traditional breeding techniques, of trees better equipped to resist the droughts, diseases and pests that threaten this vital agricultural crop.”

This project is the result of collaboration between the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Mars, Inc. (one of the world's largest manufacturers of chocolate-related products); scientists at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center and researchers from Clemson University, Hudson Alpha Institute of Biotechnology, Washington State University, Indiana University, the National Center for Genome Resources and the University of California-Davis’ PIPRA (Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture).

The mission of the project was to “support the USDA priority of promoting international food security, and USDA's commitment to agricultural sustainability.”

"Worldwide demand for cacao now exceeds production, and hundreds of thousands of small farmers and landholders throughout the tropics depend on cacao for their livelihoods. An estimated 70 percent of the world's cocoa is produced in West Africa.”

“Scientists worldwide have been searching for years for ways to produce cacao trees that can resist evolving pests and diseases, tolerate droughts and produce higher yields. ARS researchers have been testing new cacao tree varieties developed with genetic markers. But having the genome sequenced is expected to speed up the process of identifying genetic markers for specific genes that confer beneficial traits, enabling breeders to produce superior new lines through traditional breeding techniques.” The genome sequence will be released into the public domain, with access to these data online via the Cacao Genome Database (www.cacaogenomedb.org).

For more see:

O'Brien, Dennis.  "Sequencing of Cacao Genome Will Help U.S. Chocolate Industry, Subsistence Farmers in Tropical Regions," USDA, Agricultural Research Service, News Release, 15 September 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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