Genetic engineering could save Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry from deadly disease

The $9 billion Florida citrus industry is being threatened by a disease believed to have originated in China known as huanglongbing, commonly referred to as citrus greening. The bacteria that causes the disease is carried by an Asian citrus psyllid, a small insect that packs a large, deadly punch for citrus trees.

Although not at the same level, this incident evokes a little “fruit déjà vu.” In Hawaii, starting in the 1940s, the papaya plant was being ravaged by disease, the ringspot virus. A solution was needed in order to save the papaya industry. Luckily, since at least the mid-1980’s, researchers were trying develop a papaya plant that was resistant to the ringspot virus. In 1998, the genetically modified “Rainbow papaya” became available to farmers in an attempt to solve the problem. Success was immediate.

Modern advances in science could help address the problems in Florida, as it did in Hawaii. Other potential solutions should be pursued, but biotechnology should be included in the arsenal. Not surprisingly, efforts have been under way to find a solution through genetic engineering, and it is quite possible the Sunshine State’s signature commodity could be salvaged through such innovation.

Read the full, original article: Genetic engineering could provide the solution to Florida’s citrus problem

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