If you had to choose between never eating chocolate again or eating chocolate containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), what would you do? Well, this conundrum may soon become a reality because according to recent reports, the combination of farming hardships and increasing demands mean the world may be significantly chocolate-less by as early as 2030 — that is, if consumers aren’t willing to take a scientific approach to the problem.

A World Without Chocolate?

As reported by Bloomberg, the world demands about one million more metric tons of chocolate than cocoa farmers are physically able to produce. By the year 2030, this deficit is estimated to reach two million tons. In other words, we have a serious chocolate shortage on our hands. The repercussions of this chocolate shortage are visible today, with The Washington Post reporting that cocoa prices have climbed more than 60 percent since 2012 and will continue to do so. Many consumers may have seen this price increase reflective in their chocolate bars; Hershey was the first company to raise its prices.

The problem is largely rooted in chocolate's popularity. To put it quite frankly, we are consuming far too much chocolate. Western Europeans are the biggest chocolate eaters in the world, but the treat is growing in popularity in countries such as China, which traditionally do not consume very much of the substance. Dark chocolate has also seen an increase in popularity, and unfortunately this type of chocolate demands significantly higher quantities of cocoa to manufacture. The average milk chocolate bar contains about 10 percent cocoa, while dark chocolate can have nearly 70 percent.

The blame for this chocolate deficit can’t be blamed entirely on human greed. Dry weather in West Africa, where more than 70 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced, seriously decreased production in the region. Many believe that climate change is behind these temperature shifts in West Africa. Some environmental scientists estimate that by 2050 the average temperature will increase by up to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, a change that will further intensify the already dry weather and make farming on this once-fertile ground next to impossible.

On top of the foul weather, a plant fungus called frost pod has been estimated to have killed between 30 and 40 percent of all the global cocoa production, according to figures from The International Cocoa Organization. Another fungus called witches’ broom is the reason why Brazil is no longer the world’s second largest exporter of cocoa.

Possible Solution

Many hope that genetically modified chocolate could help to save this booming business from extinction. Modern genetic engineering could be a way to add in a useful gene, such as one that makes a plant resistant to fungus without disrupting the genetic base for quality.

Scientists have already engineered a breed of cocoa called CCN51. Not only is it resistant to fungus, but it can also produce more than seven times as many beans as the non-modified breeds. Unfortunately, cocoa producers believe that scientists may have sacrificed taste for durability in their creation of CCN51, but it’s hoped that further developments could improve the new chocolate’s flavoring.

Understandably, many consumers are uneasy about eating foods containing GMOs, but realistically, they are likely buying and eating products with GMOs nearly every day. Popular products such as wine, orange juice, coffee, and bananas could soon face a similar fate to the cocoa bean, needing GMOs in order to maintain sustainable levels of production.