Orange juice seems like a very unlikely candidate for genetic modification, but some scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are calling for its creation. If genetically modified (GM) orange juice is approved, it will join the list of many other pending genetic alterations that have been stacking up around the globe.
We live in a “world of nasty bacteria now,” says Calvin Arnold, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB) has existed in Asia and Africa for decades. It struck Florida in 2005, and it is the reason that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving for calling in biotechnology. The disease, also known as greening, leads to a large decrease in business.
“As the acreage goes down, lower and lower, there’s concern about reaching a threshold where the infrastructure will collapse,” Arnold said.
It is important to first look into alternatives that do not include genetic modification. The growers have been relentlessly spraying their oranges with pesticides in an effort to prevent greening. While the chemical cocktail has assuredly made its way into our bodies, it has not halted the disease.
It is also important to note that biotech engineers, responsible for genetic modification, have a hard time even creating gene alterations that prevent bacterial disease. What this means is that the modification of the oranges may be even more experimental and extreme than most genetically modified food.
“There’s been limited success when using genetics to develop resistance to bacterial diseases,” Arnold said
“It’s still a very new science and the actual impact, significant impact, in the economic, global market is still very, very limited,” he said.