Industry, government push GMO oranges as solution to pest problem

Sunday, December 05, 2010 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: GMO, oranges, health news

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(NaturalNews) Problem, reaction, solution: that's the name of the game in the U.S., and it's how sweeping changes that would otherwise never happen end up coming to pass. Currently, a widespread pest problem among citrus plants known as "greening" allegedly threatens the continued existence of orange fruit production, and the only way to fix it, say some, is to genetically-alter orange trees to resist the pest.

A recent report in Reuters explains that the Huanglongbing (HLB) bacteria, or "yellow dragon disease", is ravaging orange groves throughout Florida. The disease was first identified in China more than 100 years ago, and it has now somehow spread to the U.S. where some experts say it could wipe out the majority or entirety of Florida's orange groves within seven or eight years.

But instead of trying to address the root causes of the issue -- causes that opponents of GMOs say include overuse of pesticides and nutrient-depleted soil -- some government agencies are proposing that biotechnology companies be granted their wish to genetically-modify the trees to artificially resist the pest.

Like all other GMOs, there is no evidence that altered oranges are safe for human consumption or for the environment, but that hasn't stopped the push to get them developed and approved. Advocates continue to insist that transgenic fruits and vegetables are no different than selectively-bred ones, but numerous studies show that GMOs significantly alter gut bacteria and lead to various health problems, as well as damage the environment (

Researchers and biotechnology companies are essentially chomping at the bit to convert the nation's orange groves to GMOs because there's much money to be made from it. Erik Mirkov, professor of plant pathology at Texas A&M's Agrilife Research Center in Weslaco, Texas, and a paid researcher into the issue, told Reuters that the conversion "could potentially be huge" in terms of profits.

GMO oranges, like other GMO crops, require new seeds to be purchased every year for plantings. Their seeds are programmed to self-destruct every year, requiring farmers to purchase new ones. The GMO crop's patents also require regular fees and royalties to be paid to the companies that produce them, resulting in even higher profits.

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