The Mars candy company, the U.S. Agricultural Research Service, and the world’s second-fastest supercomputer, IBM’s Blue Gene, are working to sequence the genome of the cocoa tree. The project will identify cocoa plants that are better able to withstand the effects of global warming, including fungal strains and insects. The same tools might be applied to other food staples. There’s no genomic cure for political unrest, which also threatens the world’s cocoa supply.
[Story tip: fark.com. Chocolate portrait inspired by Roy Lichtenstein by emilywjones]
Food prices are at historic highs, thanks to a number of factors including increased biofuel use. Rice prices are causing shortages and inflation problems in India, Bangladesh and the rest of Asia, with prices of many grains double what they were this time last year.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown today called for action about the price rises at the next G8 meeting, with the incentives for making biofuel having unforeseen consequences leading to the shortages.
“For the first time in decades, the number of people facing hunger is growing. Food prices have risen sharply leading to food riots in several countries,” Brown wrote.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the Telegraph reports that farmers who had been producing opium for the illicit trade of heroin have begun to switch from the poppy to wheat because the grain fetches higher prices than the drug. Unforeseen consequences, indeed!
[via Russ Winter and Paul Krugman, image of rice at Colaba Market, Mumbai by Dey]