Coming Soon: Glow in the Dark Chocolate

September 15, 2010 at 10:45 am 4 comments

Mars, Inc. announces today that its researchers have sucessfully decoded the genome for chocolate (specifically, the Theobroma cacao tree). This gives Mars an important edge in bragging rights over rival Hershey, who had sponsored a French government team of scientists team in a head to head race to sequence the DNA of the cocoa bean. Team Hershey isn’t quite finished yet, but promises that their report will be just as good.

You may be surprised to learn that Mars has a huge research arm dedicated to all things chocolate in support of its quest for global candy domination. Mars, Inc. is a closely held private company famous for its secretiveness and inaccessibly, so it’s  hard to know just what the company is up to. But Mars seems to have an entire division dedicated to speculative chocolate pursuits; Howard Yana-Shapiro is the “global director of plant science and external research” at Mars. And Mars has other intellectual interests. Mars collaborates with UC Davis to sponsor the “Chocolate History Group.” In 2009, Mars sponsored the publication of Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage (Wiley) featuring 57 scholarly essays by 100 experts documenting and analyzing the history and culture of chocolate.

The Mars scientists will make their genome sequence public and prohibit restrictive patents based on the genetic data. So this new science is all for the public good: it may lead to more disease resistant trees, higher yields, better tasting chocolate.  One area researchers are particularly interested in is flavonoids, chemicals found in chocolate that are believed to have important heath benefits. So we may be seeing genetically modified, flavonoid boosted “neutraceutical” chocolate in the future, tasty medicine available without a prescription.

But I think these utilitarian ideas of  enhancing chocolate betray a lack of imagination. Once you start messing around with the genome, why stick to such boring stuff as flavor and flavonoids? Scientists have isolated the DNA code that makes certain jellyfish flouresce, and transferred it to mice. But why not glow in the dark chocolate? Think how that would revolutionize late night snacking.  And once you do that, you could go farther: how about using the gene that makes certain bacteria eat oil to create a chocolate bar the dissolves your belly fat? Or how about inserting the animal gene that makes hair grow: watch out, Rogaine! Of course, you’d have to be careful with that one, since the last thing anyone wants is a chocolate bar that grows hair.

More at the New York Times: Andrew Pollack, Rival Candy Projects Both Parse Cocoa’s DNA (15 Sept 2010)

Entry filed under: Chocolate, Current Candy News. Tags: , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dean  |  September 15, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I’m surprised there isn’t already a dark chocolate bar out there called “Glow In The Dark Chocolate”. It would be a dark chocolate (of course) with so much flavor it practically glows in the dark! I vote for pepper, a strong fruit, and nuts (almonds).

    Reply
    • 2. Candy Professor  |  September 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm

      Or how about dark chocolate with Wint-o-green Lifesavers, so when you bite on it, it sparks! There is, of course, already exploding chocolate (see Champagne Chocolate in a Beer Town (Pop Rocks Bar)), so perhaps I have not given the confectioners their imaginative due…

      Reply
  • 3. American Heritage Chocolate « Candy Professor  |  November 22, 2010 at 10:03 am

    [...] More at americanheritagechocolate.com. Mars also has another research division working on the chocolate genome and related chocolate biology; see my post Coming Soon: Glow in the Dark Chocolate [...]

    Reply
  • 4. Dawn  |  July 20, 2011 at 7:30 am

    Glow in the dark chocolate, wow! What’s wrong with just good old fashioned bar of the dark stuff. Saying that I would probably have to buy a bar just to check it out!

    Reply

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

Samira Kawash, PhD
Professor Emerita,
Rutgers University

(C) Samira Kawash

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