PAD Newsclip #7

Photo courtesy REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

Photo courtesy REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas


There could be no more chocolate by 2040

Cacao plants are slated to disappear by as early as 2050 thanks to warmer temperatures and dryer weather conditions.

Scientists at the University of California are teaming up with Mars company to try to save the crop before it's too late.

They're exploring the possibility of using the gene-editing technology CRISPR to make crops that can survive the new challenges.

Beyond the glittery glass-and-sandstone walls of the University of California’s new biosciences building, rows of tiny green cacao seedlings in refrigerated greenhouses await judgment day.

Under the watchful eye of Myeong-Je Cho, the director of plant genomics at an institute that's working with food and candy company Mars, the plants will be transformed. If all goes well, these tiny seedlings will soon be capable of surviving — and thriving — in the dryer, warmer climate that is sending chills through the spines of farmers across the globe.

It's all thanks to a new technology called CRISPR, which allows for tiny, precise tweaks to DNA that were never possible before. These tweaks are already being used to make crops cheaper and more reliable. But their most important use may be in the developing world, where many of the plants that people rely on to avoid starvation are threatened by the impacts of climate change, including more pests and a lack of water.

Cacao plants occupy a precarious position on the globe. They can only grow within a narrow strip of rainforested land roughly 20 degrees north and south of the equator, where temperature, rain, and humidity all stay relatively constant throughout the year. Over half of the world's chocolate now comes from just two countries in West Africa — Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

But those areas won't be suitable for chocolate in the next few decades. By 2050, rising temperatures will push today's chocolate-growing regions more than 1,000 feet uphill into mountainous terrain — much of which is currently preserved for wildlife, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Mars, the $35 billion corporation best known for Snickers, is aware of these problems and others presented by climate change.

In September, the company pledged $1 billion as part of an effort called "Sustainability in a Generation," which aims to reduce the carbon footprint of its business and supply chain by more than 60% by 2050.

"We're trying to go all in here," Barry Parkin, Mars' chief sustainability officer, told Business Insider. "There are obviously commitments the world is leaning into but, frankly, we don't think we're getting there fast enough collectively."

Its initiative with Cho at UC Berkeley is another arm of that efforts. If all goes as planned, they could develop cacao plants that don’t wilt or rot at their current elevations, doing away with the need to relocate farms or find another approach.

Jennifer Doudna, the UC Berkeley geneticist who invented CRISPR, is overseeing the collaboration with Mars. Although her tool has received more attention for its potential to eradicate human diseases and make so-called “designer babies,” Doudna thinks its most profound applications won’t be on humans but rather on the food they eat.

An avid tomato gardener, Doudna thinks her tool can benefit everyone from large food companies like Mars to individual hobbyists like herself.

”Personally, I’d love a tomato plant with fruit that stayed on the vine longer,” Doudna told Business Insider.

The research lab she oversees at UC Berkeley is called the Innovative Genomics Institute. Many of the efforts by graduate students there focus on using CRISPR to benefit small-holder farmers in the developing world. One such project aims to protect cassava — a key crop that prevents millions of people from starving each year — from climate change by tweaking its DNA to produce less of a dangerous toxin that it makes in hotter temperatures.

Doudna founded a company called Caribou Biosciences to put CRISPR into practice, and has also licensed the technology to agricultural company DuPont Pioneer for use in crops like corn and mushrooms.

Regardless of which crop the public sees CRISPR successfully used in first, the technology will be a key tool in a growing arsenal of techniques we'll need if we plan to continue eating things like chocolate as the planet warms.


#Newsclip edited by Plant A Douce, Original article by Erin Brodwin, This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. available at:, (accessed 01 May 2018) © Copyright 2018 World Economic Forum All rights reserved.


Photo courtesy Weedezign/Shutterstock

Photo courtesy Weedezign/Shutterstock

Starbucks sees 150% increase in reusable cup use

Charging extra for disposable cups while discounting reusables is working well in locations across London.

It has been six weeks since Starbucks introduced a 5p surcharge on disposable coffee cups in 35 locations across central and west London. The trial was designed to measure waste and figure out effective ways of reducing it, and so far it has been highly successful. In a preliminary report published last week, Starbucks says it has seen a 150 percent increase in reusable cup use, based on the number of people redeeming the 25p discount on reusable cups.

The relative numbers are still small, however. Prior to the trial beginning, only 2.2 percent of customers brought their own cups, and now that number is up to 5.9 percent. The report says that the biggest change has occurred in the mornings, with 8.4 percent of customers bringing their own cups. This is likely because it is easier to remember a cup in the morning, when getting coffee is one of the first things a person does upon leaving the house.

The success of this trial so far has led Starbucks to introduce another pilot project, testing alternatives to plastic straws in 54 locations in Manchester and London. (I wonder if they'll be colored green.) Two types will be tested, paper and biodegradable plastic.

The company has also committed £7 million to redesigning its disposable cups to be fully compostable and recyclable. This is a promise we've heard before numerous times from Starbucks, so it remains to be seen if it follows through.

Still, Starbucks appears to be on the right track by emphasizing the importance of waste reduction with its surcharge/discount program, rather than focusing on feel-good recycling, which isn't really a sustainable solution for the long term. It will be interesting to see if the numbers remain high through the remaining six weeks of the trial.


#Newsclip edited by Plant A Douce, Original article by: Treehugger, Available at:, (accessed 5 May 2018)  © Copyright ScienceDaily. All rights reserved.


image: LEGO

image: LEGO

Lego is making plant-based plastic pieces

Lego has started making their building pieces more sustainable. The toy company announced on Thursday that their botanical selections, such as leaves, bushes, and trees, will be made from plant-based plastic. Production has already started on the new pieces and they should be released later this year.

The plant-based plastic is sourced from sugarcane through a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and its initiative, the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance. Even though it’s from sugarcane, this plastic still has polyethylene material that makes it soft and flexible. All sustainable products still go through rigorous testing that conventional plastic bricks do.

“Children and parents will not notice any difference in the quality or appearance of the new elements, because plant-based polyethylene has the same properties as conventional polyethylene,” Tim Brooks, VP of Environmental Responsibility at Lego said in a press release.

Material from the plant-based plastic has been certified by the Bonsucro Chain of Custody Standard. This means that the sugarcane has traceable evidence to show that it’s been sourced and traded responsibly. Bonsucro verifies the data through all stages of distribution and gives out the certification if approved.

Using plant-based plastic is part of Lego’s commitment to transition toward sustainable material for their standard products and packaging by 2030. Back in 2012, they explored ways to become more sustainable and invested heavily into the research three years later. The company is also targeting zero waste in their operations.

Lego’s company currently runs on 100 percent renewable energy, a milestone reached last year and three years ahead of schedule. A 25 percent stake in the United Kingdom’s Burbo Bank extension helped them reach their goal. The company celebrated by building a massive wind turbine out of 146,251 toy bricks.

“At the LEGO Group we want to make a positive impact on the world around us, and are working hard to make great play products for children using sustainable materials,” Brooks said in the press release. “We are proud that the first LEGO elements made from sustainably sourced plastic are in production and will be in LEGO boxes this year.”

Polyethylene elements represent only one to two percent of the building pieces that Lego produces, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s important that quality isn’t hindered with the new plant-based plastic and it’ll be interesting to see what other sustainable decisions Lego goes forward with.


#Newsclip edited by Plant A Douce, Original article by Brian Spaen, Writer for Green Matters, available at:, (accessed 10 May 2018)  © Copyright 2018 World Economic Forum. All rights reserved.


Newsclip edit by Plant a douce team







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