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Friday, June 27, 2008

Mars to Sequence Cocoa Genome

Jonathan Eisen is excited because the Mars company is planning to sequence the cocoa genome [Combining two of my favorite things - chocolate and genomes]. See why this turns him on and why it isn't an example of science by press release.

The original press report is in the Washington Post [Unwrapping the Chocolate Genome]. The relevant point is the following ...
Mars plans to make the research results free and accessible through the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture, a group that supports agricultural innovation, as they become available. The intent is to prevent opportunists from patenting the plant's key genes.
Kudos to Mars if this turns out to be true.

In the interest of full disclosure I reveal that one of my children (Jane) works for Mars.


  1. This is good news. I love the product, and I think the plant is pretty fantastic. I had no idea Mars was that involved with research on the crop itself; I always took them to be a mere importer of the product. Safeguarding the genetic intellectual property like that is a fine, smart move.

    I got my first look at a cocoa bean pod a couple of years ago. They're like giant stinky citrus fruit with huge seeds in each segment. Takes a pretty good leap of imagination to be faced with a pod like that and know all the interesting things that can be done with the contents.

    The pods look pretty bizarre sticking straight out of the trunk instead of on branches. Pollinated by gnats to boot :)

    I'm afraid my one sole cocoa plant seedling is giving up the ghost, though. I'll have to source one from the Flora Exotica folks all the way out east in Montreal. I'm envious of your proximity; we seem to have not much in the way of exotic plant suppliers out west.

  2. The first newstory I read on this didn't mention the PIPRA stuff, so I was concerned that this could pose problems for the cocoa farmers in the long run. But reading this, it seems Mars have done the right thing in making plans to have this research available freely.

  3. I think Mars should come give a talk at here at MaRS when they're done with the cocoa genome.