It looks like the cacao plant used for chocolate production is at risk of being wiped out. Grrlscientist at the Guardian science blogs featured the story in her Jan. 11, 2012 posting.
… despite chocolate’s popularity in the United States and Europe, the cacao plant is in trouble. …
The most common way of growing cacao is in a monoculture, the same way that corn is grown, which makes plants much more susceptible to a plethora of diseases and pest infestations, says Dr Almeda [botanist Frank Almeda, senior curator at the California Academy of Sciences]. Making things worse, cacao farmers make less than one dollar a day, so cultivating cacao isn’t even economically feasible, so farmers are abandoning their cacao plantations.
Here’s a video from the California Academy of Sciences about chocolate,
Grrlscientist mentions corn as another food which is monoculture-cultivated and I’m going add banana as another one of these monoculture food plants and that, too, is in danger, not for the first time. (I’m not sure about whether corn is in immediate danger or not.) There’s a type of banana that we no longer eat, Gros Michel. Our grandparents did and, by all accounts, it was a better tasting banana than the one we have now but it was wiped out by disease.
Agribusiness interests found an alternative, the Cavendish banana, which is now in danger of being wiped out. (What is that saying about repeating the practices that you got into trouble in the first place and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity?) There’s lots of information about the banana situation on the web and I found this US National Public Radio (NPR) interview from July 22, 2011 with Dan Koeppel, science writer and author of “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World,” which features a transcript of the interview, as well as, the audio file.
I know I don’t usually write about this kind of thing but 20 years ago when I was completing my undergraduate degree, I took a course where we discussed the issue of monoculture and the danger of relying on one species of food plant , and just couldn’t resist writing about this any longer.