A World Without Chocolate?

Some scientists say chocolate could become as rare and expensive as caviar.

ByABC News
February 13, 2009, 10:56 AM

Feb. 14, 2008— -- It's hard to imagine Valentine's Day without chocolate, but some scientists say that it's possible that chocolate could one day be in short supply.

What would the world be like without this decadent, delectable and divine dessert?

Watch the story today on Planet Green's "Focus Earth" with Bob Woodruff.

Historians say the Aztecs discovered chocolate more than 3,100 years ago and it was revered to the point of worship. Cocoa beans were linked to the feathered serpent god of agriculture and creation called Quetzalcoatl. If you believe the myth, Quetzalcoatl descended from the heavens on the beam of a morning star, carrying a cocoa tree stolen from paradise.

In its early form, chocolate was consumed as a celebratory beer-like beverage described as foamy and reddish and flavored with chilli water, aromatic flowers, vanilla and wild bee honey.

It was also food fit for an army. Legend has it that French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte carried chocolate morsels on his military campaigns in the 19th century, eating it to conserve energy.

Scientists say that now it is chocolate's sustainability that needs to be monitored. The Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Center warns that chocolate may become as rare and expensive as caviar within 20 years.

A number of factors, including climate change, are affecting the farming and production of cacao, or the cocoa plant.

Howard Shapiro, global director for plant science and external research for confectionery manufacturing Mars Inc. of McLean, Va., said measures must be taken soon to prevent shortages of chocolate.

"If nothing was done, and the temperature was to rise, and the rainfalls were to change and drought became more prevalent ... without looking into new farming practices, then there should be a problem, and there might likely be a problem," he said.

Cacao grows in rainforest conditions with high biodiversity. David Croft, the British chocolate company Cadbury's conformance and sustainability director, said, "cocoa isn't a traditional farmed crop. If you go to West Africa, it's cocoa trees underneath forest canopy or underneath a canopy of shade trees. So it's important we help to maintain that natural eco-system if we want cocoa to thrive and to flourish."