About 80 percent of America’s orange juice comes from Florida orange trees. And now roughly half of them have tree cancer. If this keeps up, the $9 billion citrus industry in Florida might have to start making your morning OJ from fruit that’s been genetically modified to withstand bacteria.
By “tree cancer,” to be precise, we actually mean “an incurable bacterial infection from China that goes by many names: huanglongbing, ‘yellow dragon disease,’ and ‘citrus greening,’” according to the Washington Post. It kills tree roots, ruins fruit, and ultimately conquers the entire tree. A wee bug, the Asian citrus psyllid, helpfully spreads the disease from unhealthy to healthy trees. The psyllid is so effective, five other states and several countries are seeing the disease devastate their citrus crops. Aye yi yi.
About 500 scientists put their heads together in February 2013, but despite $80 million in funding, they still don’t know how to stop tree cancer. Which is partly why OJ containers have quietly shrunk from 64 to 59 ounces — and their juice might start being made from GMOs (genetically modified ORANGES):
Researchers funded by the industry, the state and the U.S. Agriculture Department are exploring an option that could save the trees and their citrus, but also turn off consumers: engineering and planting genetically modified trees that are resistant to the bacteria carried by the psyllid.
“Would that be accepted by the public?” Sparks asked. “You don’t have to do a focus group or another survey to know it is a public concern.”
Yet another reason to push for GMO labeling in our food!