A Race to Save the Orange by Altering Its DNA
Please read the whole thing, Amy Harmon presents a great overview of the successes, potentials, and troubles of GMO crops.
The call Ricke Kress and every other citrus grower in Florida dreaded came while he was driving.
“It’s here” was all his grove manager needed to say to force him over to the side of the road.
The disease that sours oranges and leaves them half green, already ravaging citrus crops across the world, had reached the state’s storied groves. Mr. Kress, the president of Southern Gardens Citrus, in charge of two and a half million orange trees and a factory that squeezes juice for Tropicana and Florida’s Natural, sat in silence for several long moments.
“O.K.,” he said finally on that fall day in 2005, “let’s make a plan.”
In the years that followed, he and the 8,000 other Florida growers who supply most of the nation’s orange juice poured everything they had into fighting the disease they call citrus greening.
To slow the spread of the bacterium that causes the scourge, they chopped down hundreds of thousands of infected trees and sprayed an expanding array of pesticides on the winged insect that carries it. But the contagion could not be contained.
They scoured Central Florida’s half-million acres of emerald groves and sent search parties around the world to find a naturally immune tree that could serve as a new progenitor for a crop that has thrived in the state since its arrival, it is said, with Ponce de León. But such a tree did not exist.
An orange from a tree infected with citrus greening, right, is stunted compared with a normal orange. Richard Perry/The New York Times
“In all of cultivated citrus, there is no evidence of immunity,” the plant pathologist heading a National Research Council task force on the disease said.