Citrus Greening Disease, a bacterial disease affecting oranges, has spread to nearly every orange-growing county in Florida, cutting orange juice production significantly and hurting farmers and producers. According to a Greenwire article by Paul Voosen, a report released by the National Academy of Sciences concludes that “conventional plant breeding is unlikely to deliver resistant [citrus] varieties” and genetic engineering may be necessary to develop citrus crops that can withstand the disease.
With the exception of the papaya crop grown in Hawaii, genetically modified minor crops like oranges have not been commercialized. However, field tests of citrus trees engineered to resist the Greening Disease are already under way. Southern Gardens, one of Florida’s largest citrus producers, developed engineered trees in a partnership with Texas A&M. However, it is too early in the trials to show conclusive results, and it may take 10-15 years to develop the disease-resistant citrus.