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Mars has published five new research articles that show promising results on the path to breeding higher-yielding cocoa plants and improving farmer incomes

Whenever the global cocoa sector gathers, we’re eager to be part of the conversation.

Mars fourth generation family member and member of the Board of Directors, Frank Mars, delivered the keynote speech at the Fourth World Cocoa Conference in Berlin today. He was eager to share our scientific progress and details from our cocoa research articles recently published in the journal Frontiers of Plant Science.

“Over the next ten years, Mars aims to develop even better disease-resistant clones,” Frank told the conference attendees. “We’ll focus on both simple and advanced production methodologies and improved farmer practices with a goal to triple cocoa yields globally. This would free up land occupied with unproductive cocoa trees for farmers to grow other crops, including those for their own consumption. But to achieve this will require all of us in this room to think differently and work harder together; not only on better plant varieties and farming practices and models, but also on pest and disease control.”

The five new scientific articles builds on work by Mars, IBM and the USDA to help sequence the cocoa genome and make it publicly available in 2010. It also adds to the work on higher yielding pest and disease resistant clonal varieties Mars has helped develop with cocoa growing countries. Bottom line: applying this knowledge will help cocoa farmers produce more cocoa on less land and with less pesticides, which can improve their livelihoods.

But despite big leaps in our progress, Frank pointed out that the action taken so far by industry hasn’t been sufficient to move the needle on sustainable cocoa.

“We need to fix this,” he said. “We need to fix this now. We need to fix this together. And to fix this will require change. And change requires being open minded to new ideas, and new ways of working. We know we can’t grow and prosper unless the planet, people and communities on which we rely are healthy and thriving.”

Frank cited the need for continuing innovation, like our work with the Mars Center for Cocoa Science in Bahia, Brazil. This Center, opened in 1982, has evolved to include world-class, private-public plant science partnerships with researchers and governments around the world. The Center helps lead our efforts in areas such cocoa breeding, farm best practices and pest and disease research and management at a truly critical time.

“My hope is that ten years from now, I can reflect on our efforts, both individually, and collaboratively,” Frank told those gathered at the conference. “I hope that I can look in the mirror and say I am proud of what we have achieved, together. And know that cocoa does in fact have a sustainable future. And it’s one that uses science and technology to put farmers first.”