Photo: Ethos.

No matter your feelings about Valentine’s Day, the holiday is a great excuse to eat chocolate. I’m partial to dark chocolate peanut butter cups myself, but maybe this year I’ll branch out and take a bite out of Ethos Chocolate, a new line of chocolate bars on a mission.

Ethos is part of A Fresh Look, a nonprofit coalition of farmers that want to pull back the veil on one of the most polarizing words in food: GMOs. The bars all have cacao from the Dominican Republic, with added beet sugar for sweetness. There are four flavors, all with inspiring yet semi-cryptic names:

  • The Optimist is the simplest flavor, with just cacao and beet sugar.
  • The Survivor features papaya, which was nearly wiped out in Hawaii due to a virus. However, they were saved thanks to genetic modifications that made the fruit resistant to the virus.
  • The Trendsetter is full of blended apples, and highlights how GMO farming created non-browning apples that stay fresh longer, thus reducing food waste.
  • The Hero has orange oil and draws attention to the detrimental impact of citrus greening disease on Florida oranges, and the GMOs that farmers are using to make them resistant.

Fittingly, chocolate is one of the foods that needs GMO technology more than most. With climate change (read: warmer temperatures, less water, and new pests), scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have predicted that cacao could go extinct as early as 2050. For choco-holics, that’s very bad news.

To give cacao plants a better shot, scientists are turning to GMOs to make them more resistant to pests and adaptable to shifting temperatures. In fact, the University of Berkeley and Mars, Inc. (of Snickers and M&M’s fame) recently teamed up to research how CRISPR could alter the DNA of cacao plants to make them survive hotter and drier climates. (No, CRISPR is not the same thing as GMO — but that’s a whole other post.)

I’m honestly not sure if this is pure marketing gimmick or if it could actually help make people more comfortable with GMOs.

The Ethos website has a lot of flash and jargon, but it doesn’t exactly feature a lot of GMO facts and figures, and the chocolate packaging doesn’t have any obvious “Made with GMOs” brand. In fact, it’s not even clear if the Ethos bars actually use genetically modified oranges, papayas, or apples (and as of yet there’s no GM cacao plant), though according to Business Insider they do use GM beets.

Maybe the point is to let the chocolates speak for themselves. There’s a lot of fearmongering around GMOs, despite the fact that they have been unequivocally declared safe by numerous scientific bodies. What better way to make something less frightening than with tasty chocolate? Once people are on a sugar high, then they can peruse the packaging to get their dose of pro-GMO messaging.

In honor of V-Day, Ethos is letting you send one chocolate to that special someone. Because nothing says love like ensuring that we’ll have chocolate for years to come.

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