When searching for a mate, good genes spell all sorts of good things: brains, bravado, beauty. For chocolate companies, the same theory applies to their trees.
The AP has announced that researchers are closing in on a complete mapping of cacao trees’ DNA. With $10 million of support from Mars Inc. — the maker of Snickers, M&Ms and other major brands — the study aims to improve cocoa investments’ sustainability against common crop pests.
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As the CBC notes, approximately 2.7 million tons of cocoa is produced annually across the world. But farmers subsequently lose $700 to $800 million from the aftereffects of damages to cacao trees. By studying the genetic backbone of the plants, researchers believe they can produce trees with a higher immunity to disease, thereby improving the cacao pods’ overall yield.
For more, check out a fuller take on TIME’s Ecocentric blog.