Sequencing the Cacao Tree Genome

Although it’s not really genetic genealogy, this story was too interesting to pass up.

Mars food company announced on Friday that it is partnering with IBM and the Department of Agriculture to sequence and analyze the entire cocoa genome. Mars will provide more than $10 million and will make the sequencing and analysis results freely accessible through the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture.

Unfortunately for those of us that love chocolate, the cacao tree is under attack. According to an article in the Washington Post, “West Africa, which produces 70% of the world’s cocoa, has been hammered by bad weather in the past few years.” Additionally, the cocoa industry in Brazil has been almost completely destroyed by a fungus known as witches’ broom.

The cocoa genome is roughly 400 to 500 million base pairs, compared to 3 billion in the human genome. As a result, the scientists involved in the project estimate that it will take a year to sequence the cocoa genome.