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Building a better chocolate factory

June 26, 2008|From Times Wire Services

To save chocolate lovers from the agony of a potential candy bar shortage, candy giant Mars is investing $10 million in a project to develop cacao trees that fight drought, disease and poor harvests.

Mars will announce today that it is partnering with IBM and the Department of Agriculture to sequence and analyze the entire cocoa genome. The team will identify the characteristics that make a better cacao tree. Then they plan to breed the genetically superior specimens.

Mars plans to make the research results free and accessible as they become available through the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture, a group that supports agricultural innovation.

Scientists expect it will take about a year to generate cocoa's raw DNA. The cocoa genome consists of about 500 million base pairs, whereas the human genome has 3 billion base pairs.

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