Cocao flowers starting to blossom. Cocoa beans come later in large fruit-like pods containing around 30 to 60 seeds.  (Source: Mark Guiltinan, Penn State)
Could chocolate actually get any closer to ambrosia?

Many DailyTech readers may not be familiar with the name Criollo, but most chocolatiers would know it well. The name is associated with many Spanish and South American things, but in this case, it's the common name for a species of Theobroma cacao, and one of the finest cocoa tree strains in the world. Having been domesticated by the Mayans some three thousand years ago, the Criollo cocoa beans produce some of the best chocolate known to mankind.

Thanks to the marvels of modern science and a team of researchers from twenty-odd institutions around the world, the Theobroma cacao plant genome has now been sequenced. Understanding which of the thirty three thousand-plus genes control disease resistance, flavonoid production, oil production and terpene biosynthesis may allow scientists and horticulturists to produce even finer cocoa beans by genetically engineering plants with custom output settings. A mere eighty four of the more than twenty eight thousand protein expressing genes control the quality of cocoa butter, which is an important ingredient in everything from confectionary to cosmetics.

It remains to be seen what kind of fracas may come from the world of genetically modified chocolate. 
DailyTech readers may be familiar with the antics of Monsanto, who is taking the farming world by more of a slogging, angry thud than a bang of any sort. But Criollo beans come from a village in Venezuela by the name of Chuao. Simple plantation farms turn a profit of about two dollars per day, with finer beans like Criollo bringing in more. With the large stock of mature plantation trees and relatively low profit for farmers, it seems hard to believe these high quality grows will see genetic engineering in our lifetimes.

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