Should we save the orange with GMOs?
In the summer months, on tens of thousands of counters across New Jersey sit cartons of orange juice labeled “100 percent natural Florida orange,” but how would you feel if your orange juice weren’t so natural any more?
Throughout the world, precious orange crops are disappearing due to a fatal disease known as citrus greening — also known as Huonglongbing (“yellow dragon disease”), or HLB. This disease, which is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, a bug no bigger than the head of a pin, causes orange trees to grow green, misshapen, stunted fruit and eventually to die. There is no cure.
So when HLB spread to Florida’s treasured groves, naturally, the first step was to search for a cure in nature.Growers searched across the world for a tree that was naturally immune to citrus greening. Unfortunately, no such tree was found, so another solution was devised. This solution was to develop GMOs (genetically modified oranges).
The idea of marketing a GMO has caused a lot of controversy over the last few years. Companies such as Tropicana feel that creating a juice out of a GMO would lose them profits they gain from their “100 percent natural” label. These companies feel that developing a GMO is a waste of time and money and that no consumers will accept the fruit. Growers, on the other hand, believe a GMO is the only way to save the orange and the orange juice industry, and believe if a GMO is the only way for customers to enjoy an orange, they’ll either accept it or find another fruit to eat.
Personally, as a native New Jerseyan who has enjoyed ‘Jersey Fresh’ produce all her life, I find the idea of genetically modified produce to be a bit unsettling. I prefer locally grown, organic, and fresh produce to the average mass-grown produce we find in supermarkets. In addition, orange juice, such as Tropicana, is one of the few juices left that boasts a “100% natural” label, and having to give that up would be a loss for me. Also, if consumers accept GMOs as the new orange, will other companies also introducing genetically modified fruit into their products? Will natural produce be abandoned for cheaper, more profitable fruit? Genetic modification is a very new process, and scientists don’t know yet whether and how genetically modified food will affect humans; so until that time comes, genetic modification should be limited to those cases when it is absolutely necessary. And yet, because oranges will almost certainly go extinct without human intervention, genetic modification may be necessary here. GMOs may be the only viable solution to save the orange industry, and if that is so, and if consumers are willing to accept GMOs through their unseen risks, should they be developed?
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