clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Modding the DNA of oranges may be the only way to save them

New, 63 comments
orange tree shutterstock
orange tree shutterstock

Would you drink a genetically modified glass of orange juice? As The New York Times explores, that seemingly simple question is at the heart of an enormous debate among citrus growers. Faced with an unyielding disease that sours oranges by leaving them half greened, the heavyweights in Florida's crop community have tirelessly searched in recent years for a solution. They've chopped down hundreds of thousands of infected trees in vain; a search for an orange tree naturally immune to the citrus greening has come up empty.

With no quick methods of overcoming the crisis at their disposal, growers have started down the controversial path of genetic engineering. It turns out that altering an orange's DNA with a gene from spinach can stave off greening, with early tests repeatedly proving the tactic successful. A genetically modified tree could produce juice within five years if everything goes according to plan and — more importantly — if a cautious public is willing to accept the idea of genetically modified oranges.