Viewpoint: GMO trees could save America’s ‘decimated’ citrus industry from bacterial ‘plague’

citrus greening
Oranges infected with citrus greening disease

Farmers in the major U.S. citrus-producing regions—Florida, California, Texas and Arizona, in particular—are facing a plague of epic proportions.

Oranges and a range of other citrus fruits are being decimated by an incurable disease, a lethal, bacterial infection known as “citrus greening”—or Huanglongbing. It is spread by a tiny insect, the Asian citrus psyllid….

There’s good news from the lab, however. Researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have hit the trifecta; they’ve developed genetically engineered citrus trees that show not only resistance to greening but also to canker and black spot, two other perennial problems for citrus producers.

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The “cure” developed by the plant biologists is ingenious. They inserted a gene isolated from the Arabidopsis plant—a member of the mustard family—to create enhanced resistance to greening and reduced disease severity. Several trees remained disease-free after 36 months in a field with a high number of diseased trees.

Related article:  Wealthy countries fear GM crops, while developing nations say they will 'mostly help,' poll shows

Nevertheless, it will be a decade or more before these disease-resistant trees have received regulatory approvals….

Read full, original article: AMERICA’S CITRUS FRUITS ARE BEING DECIMATED BY AN INCURABLE DISEASE—WE NEED GM SCIENCE TO SAVE THEM

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