Just one week before Valentine’s Day, a unique brand of chocolate bars called Ethos Chocolate has launched and is highlighting the benefits of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Each limited edition bar is crafted with ingredients biotechnology and GMO farming has saved, made more sustainable, or could protect for future generations.
For example, the cacao tree produces the cocoa to make chocolate that so many of us enjoy, but climate change, warmer temperatures, lack of water, pests, and increased demand are pushing the cacao tree towards extinction. The cacao tree could go extinct as early as 2030.
Fortunately, genetic engineering is being explored as an option to save and protect cacao trees, and cacao is one of the pro-GMO stories Ethos Chocolate bars is highlighting.
The four bars each have a different story of how biotechnology has played or could play a heroic role in saving a certain food. Here are the four bars:
- The Optimist – Genetic engineering is being explored to protect cacao trees like the ones in the Dominican Republic that make the Ethos bars.
- The Survivor – GMOs saved the entire papaya industry in Hawaii after it was decimated by papaya ring spot virus.
- The Hero – GMO researchers are working to help Florida orange trees fight the citrus greening disease which threatens the entire citrus crop.
- The Trendsetter – GMO farming paved the way for non-browning apples that stay fresh longer to help cut food waste.
“We know many Americans are passionate about chocolate, so we’ve created a product to tangibly illustrate the benefits of a technology that is often misunderstood,” said lead scientist Rebecca Larson, Ph.D., for A Fresh Look. “Chocolate is worth saving, so what could be a better embodiment of the benefits of biotechnology than creating our own line of chocolates to tell that story.”
“We want to help educate the public on the value of GMO farming and the positive impact biotechnology can have on a local and global scale, like slashing pesticide use an average of 37 percent worldwide,” added Larson. “We want people to enjoy these delicious chocolates, but also take a fresh look at GMOs.”
One reason Ethos Chocolate wants to educate consumers about the benefits of GMOs and combat the misperceptions: A recent study in Nature Human Behaviour showed that extreme opponents of GMOs know the least about GMOs but think they know the most.
We know genetic modifications can provide real solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. With this bio-based innovation, we can:
- Increase productivity in agriculture, helping feed the world and combat food crises;
- Cultivate crops that are drought-tolerant and insect-resistant;
- Improve nutritional quality of crops and increase vitamin content;
- Conserve water; Improve air quality; Enhance soil quality;
- Reduce the use of pesticides and other chemical inputs; and much more.
What Ethos Chocolate has done is something that other food companies should look at replicating. Not only is it transparent but it also explains to the consumer why the product is made with GMOs and the societal benefit, such as protecting the environment, improving sustainability, or saving a certain food. Consumers are much more likely to purchase a product that aligns with their values, and a label could be the right tool to make that connection with the consumer.
Ethos Chocolate is supported by A Fresh Look, which is a nonprofit made up of 1,600 farmers who are committed to educating the importance and benefits of GMO agriculture.