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A Forward-looking Approach

October 6, 2010
A Forward-looking Approach
Luis Concepción

We have reasons to celebrate. We must applaud the joint collaboration of chocolate manufacturers, universities, cocoa farmers worldwide and even the almighty IT giant IBM to promote an investigation which will complete the cocoa genetic map and be made available to the world. Its free access will avoid a product’s intellectual property, which will come from this genetic information, does not become a barrier. In this way the sector benefits from the advances in science and secures its viability.

Every year, diseases caused by fungi and plagues cause devastating losses that add up to over $700 million. Doctor Juan Carlos Motamayor, tropical agronomist and one of the main investigators in this project, maintains that farmers lose up to 80% of their products because of these factors. With the results of the investigations, the world cocoa production will be able to offset the balance of trade in which the demand exceeds the supply and where children fight against plagues with large quantities of pesticides.

Privileged access to the latest genome tools will be available on the web page, which contains the Cocoa Genome Project database. This will accelerate the investigation process, the identification of specific genes which will improve resistance to plagues, and help us understand the interaction between genetics and the environment. And in more practical terms, farmers will be able to make their crops more profitable and diversify their production.

As we have said before, thanks to the coordination and effort of all of those participating in this project, this will go beyond the commercialization of the raw material restricted by those who hold registered patents. In a project such as this one, everyone benefits from innovation, the sustainability of the product, and the preservation of the ecosystems on which it depends. We must take this into account. Does anyone have anything to add?

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