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Cacao Genome Research #fb

September 16, 2010

Mars, USDA-ARS, IBM unveil preliminary cacao genome sequence ahead of schedule

Today, Mars, Inc., the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and IBM released the preliminary findings of their breakthrough cacao genome sequence and made it available in the public domain. This is the result of a joint research endeavor to improve the cocoa growing process and represents a successful private/public partnership for the benefit of the world’s cocoa farmers as well as a more sustainable world cocoa supply.

The preliminary sequencing of the cacao genome is a promising first step in advancing farmers’ ability to plant more robust, higher-yielding, and drought and disease-resistant trees. The results of the research will be made available to the public with permanent access via the Cacao Genome Database (www.cacaogenomedb.org) to ensure that the data remains perpetually open without patent as well as to allow scientists to begin applying the findings immediately to crop cultivation efforts.

With approximately 6.5 million farmers depending on cocoa for their livelihoods — most of them coming from small, family-run farms — cocoa is a crucial crop for their survival and the economies of their nations. However, cocoa crops have always been plagued by serious global losses from pests and diseases, and, to date, there has been very little investment in scientific research to improve the cacao tree.

“As the global leader in cocoa science, we understand the importance of not only investing in this research, but making it publicly available for all to benefit,” says Howard-Yana Shapiro, Ph.D., global head of plant science and research for Mars. “As a private company, Mars is in a unique position to drive and fund fundamental science that will support its long term focus and vision. Although it may not benefit the bottom line in the short term, in the long run, it will ensure mutually beneficial results for the company, cocoa farmers and tree crop production in key regions of the world.”

Decades of Mars research has led to major innovations in the areas of sustainable cocoa farming technology. The company’s latest partnership

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