Wall Street Journal Ad Features Mars and IBM Partnership
Why chocolate matters to a smarter planet
A full page advertisement appears in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal to highlight the importance of Mars joint project with IBM and the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service to sequence the cocoa genome. Here are a few questions and answers to provide a little more detail on the cocoa genome and its importance.
• What’s the connection between IBM and Mars, Incorporated?
On June 26, 2008, the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Mars, Incorporated, and IBM announced a joint project, in which the three would apply their scientific resources to sequence and analyze the entire cocoa genome. The results of this research may enable farmers to plant better quality cocoa and, more importantly, help create healthier, stronger cocoa crops with higher yields, pest and disease resistance, and increased water and nutrient use efficiency. These crops help to protect an important social, economic and environmental driver in Africa, where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced.
• What is a genome? And why is it important?
A genome is like a map of all the components (genes or chromosomes) that make up the characteristics of an organism -- in this case, cocoa. By understanding the location of all the characteristics, it is easier and quicker to breed cocoa plants that have the characteristics that are desired – high yield, pest or disease resistance, or increased water or nutrient efficiency, usually meaning less use of agrochemicals. Through traditional breeding, plants with the desired characteristic can be grafted onto an existing plant, with much faster and more successful results using techniques that have been used for hundreds of years.
The world’s small family farmers could increase their productivity if they had better seed stock, fertilizers and training. This research project will help us improve the cocoa trees so that they are better able to survive pests, disease and drought and will help farmers provide a better life for themselves and their communities. In addition, this research will ultimately enable farmers to grow fewer plants with higher yields, which will free up land for farmers to grow other cash crops that can benefit their livelihoods.
• What is meant by smarter cocoa?
Smarter cocoa is the result of smarter breeding. Having the cocoa genome map, allows breeding that is faster, easier and with more successful results through conventional or traditional breeding. And smarter cocoa is cocoa that can thrive in increasingly tougher environmental challenges – soil that has been depleted of nutrients, drought or water shortages, and lack of shade, disease and pests.
• What about environmentally-friendly, and socially responsible cocoa?
This research project will help small family farmers improve their cocoa trees so that they are better able to survive pests, disease and drought and will help farmers provide a better life for themselves and their communities. And more productive trees will ultimately enable farmers to grow fewer trees, which will free up land for farmers to grow other cash crops that can benefit their livelihoods.
And just last week, Mars was proud to announce that we are taking steps to be the first global chocolate company to commit to certify our entire cocoa supply as being produced in a sustainable manner, by 2020. This type of commitment from the world’s largest retail manufacturer of chocolate will result in measurable improvements in the quality of life for cocoa farmers, their families and communities, and a cleaner, greener environment for all of us.
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