With Easter around the corner, you may be dreaming of chocolate bunnies, but getting the cacao crop to make those tasty treats is becoming increasingly difficult. A third of the world's cacao crop dies every year due to the fact that the trees are necessarily grown in a monoculture and thus incredibly vulnerable to disease. So what is a candymaker to do? Well, if you are the Mars Corp. you hire a Global Director of Plant Science, specifically, you hire Howard-Yana Shapiro, and become the only chocolate company that has a dedicated research facility in “the center of this disease cesspool” (Howard’s words). Mars, which owns the Mars, Snickers and M&M candy brands, is also set to spend tens of millions of dollars annually certifying that the cocoa used in their $10 billion of chocolate products are sustainably sourced by 2020.
Here to tell us more about why cacao trees are at risk, and why no one but him and a few folks at the USDA are researching this, is Howard-Yana Shapiro