Will Anti-Biotech Activists Cause Oranges to Go Extinct?

Citrus Greening DiseaseNew York TimesOn Sunday, the New York Times ran a terrific front page article about the efforts to save orange crops from citrus greening disease by means of biotechnology. The bacterial disease, spread by sap sucking Asian citrus psyllids, is now destroying orange groves around the planet. The disease has no cure and is now found in all 32 counties in Florida where citrus grows and could well result in the commercial extinction of the crop.

The article details how growers in Florida are financing biotech research to build immunity into citrus crops. The most promising technique involves inserting a couple of genes from spinach into orange trees.

The Times article correctly notes that every independent scientific organization that has evaluated biotech crops has found current varieties safe for people and the environment:

Oranges are not the only crop that might benefit from genetically engineered resistance to diseases for which standard treatments have proven elusive. And advocates of the technology say it could also help provide food for a fast-growing population on a warming planet by endowing crops with more nutrients, or the ability to thrive in drought, or to resist pests. Leading scientific organizations have concluded that shuttling DNA between species carries no intrinsic risk to human health or the environment, and that such alterations can be reliably tested. ...

An emerging scientific consensus held that genetic engineering would be required to defeat citrus greening. “People are either going to drink transgenic orange juice or they’re going to drink apple juice,” one University of Florida scientist told Mr. [Ricke] Kress, [president of Southern Gardens Citrus].

However, the bogus anti-biotech scare campaign relentlessly pushed by neo-luddites and profit-hungry organic food peddlers is having a baleful effect on public opinion. As the Times notes:

But the idea of eating plants and animals whose DNA has been manipulated in a laboratory — called genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.’s — still spooks many people. Critics worry that such crops carry risks not yet detected, and distrust the big agrochemical companies that have produced the few in wide use. And hostility toward the technology, long ingrained in Europe, has deepened recently among Americans as organic food advocates, environmentalists and others have made opposition to it a pillar of a growing movement for healthier and ethical food choices.

Healthier and ethical? How in the world is low-productivity agriculture that uses more land to grow less food healthier or ethical?

If it's safe to eat the genes and the proteins they make in spinach, it is OK to eat them in oranges. The whole Times article is well worth reading.

For more background on the low and scientifically dishonest campaign against crop biotechnology, see my column, "The Top 5 Lies About Biotech Crops."

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Wake me when they start saving oranges with nanotechnology.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Also unnatural and freaky. Better to let the oranges go extinct.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Resistance to scurvy is futile.

  • Pro Libertate||

    We'll always have grapefruit juice. You will enjoy it.

  • Zeb||

    And hemlock needles if that doesn't work out (not the Socrates kind of hemlock).

  • Pro Libertate||

    There's always sauerkraut juice.

  • Loki||

    "I drank what?"

  • Matrix||

    you're one sick bastard...

  • SKR||

    You missed the citrus part of citrus greening. Lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, pomelos, and kumquats will all be gone.

    That means no more margaritas dammit or whiskey sours. This cannot stand.

    You can keep your salty dog, but my woman would be upset.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Then I was right about sauerkraut juice. Better start replanting those citrus trees with cabbage.

  • Ted S.||

    That means no more margaritas dammit

    No more Margaritaville? Woohoo!

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Can't make a decide salsa without lime juice. That's too high a price to pay to get rid of Margaritaville.

  • Ted S.||

    Gotta love that auto-correct. What's a "decide salsa"? :-)

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Goddamit.

    "Decent" salsa. Decent.

  • goneGalt||

    Meh, I prefer greyhounds to screwdivers.

  • Ron Bailey||

    FoE: They will just 3-D print them.

  • Sevo||

    "They will just 3-D print them."
    Paypal won't handle the payments!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Tonerkist Oranges paid for with bitcoins. Now that's scifi.

  • ||

    An emerging scientific consensus...

    Uh-oh Ron, you used a bad word for a lot of folks around here.

  • ||

    Actually, JJ, Ron didn't use it, the Times did.

  • ||

    But he said the article was "terrific". And then reprinted that portion. So I must assume he agrees with the sentiment.

    I'm just busting his balls. I agree that the whole AGW scare-mongering thing is bullshit, but it bugs me how a bunch of people will gladly accept a scientific consensus as long as it doesn't conflict with their political views, but then bash the concept when it's used in pro-AGW arguments. A lot of what we take as common-sense facts are, in point of fact, more of a scientific consensus than anything else. So I don't like to attack that concept, like others around here do.

  • Rasilio||

    That depends on what the consensus is.

    if it is a consensus as to the current state of things then there is nothing wrong with a scientific consensus.

    However it if it is a consensus as to what should be done about something, well then that is a political ideology masquerading as a scientific consensus.

  • ||

    sap sucking Asian

    my favorite kind

  • kinnath||

    Time to impose a literacy test on potential voters before they're allowed to vote.

  • Aresen||

    There is a distinction between the ability to read and the ability to think.

  • ||

    Time to impose an anti-GMO test on potential voters before they are allowed to vote.

    It's a perfect proxy for the ability ot think.

  • Redmanfms||

    Well, they don't give a shit if banning their bogeyman GMOs results in brown children going blind or banning DDT results in brown and black people dying by the millions from malaria, so what makes anybody believe they'd give a shit if oranges went extinct at the altar of their Mother Gaia?

  • Aresen||

    The disease has no cure and is now found in all 32 counties in Florida where citrus grows and could well result in the commercial extinction of the crop.

    A good many anti-biotech activists don't care if Homo Sapiens goes extinct, so long as there are no GMOs.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yeah, well we'll show them when we start GMOing humans.

  • Aresen||

    I see a potential movie here, about humans with genetic mutations that give them super-human powers and a government out to suppress the mutants.

    Oh, wait...

  • Pro Libertate||

    The GMOX-Men.

  • Generic Stranger||

    That'd never work. What you need is a movie about genetically modified humans that become an upper caste and one unmodified man's effort to break into that caste. Now that's box office gold!

  • anon||

    I'm more for cybernetic augmentation myself, but I'll take what I can get.

  • Nazdrakke||

    You want to have some fun? Stop in a bar in downtown Portland and bring GMO's up. There are people here who would gladly sign off on the deaths of millions of people if it meant forever eradicating GMO's. They are seriously sick, like Pol Pot sick.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Well, millions of other people.

  • Rasilio||

    The funny thing is this applies equally to both Portland Oregon and Portland Maine.

  • anon||

    Or any other liberal stronghold, for that matter.

    Groupthink? What's that?

  • ||

    Status signalling. Being anti-GMO is a way of displaying your credentials as a good progressive. Much like having a picture of Stalin on your wall in 1960s Russia.

  • Nazdrakke||

    Can only speak to OR, myself, and the amazing number of persons whose experience with growing six organic tomato plants at the local Co-Op has made them experts on farming.

  • SKR||

    It really is astonishing how the experience of growing enough food for a couple of salads gets extrapolated to an entire agriculture system. From a person I know, "you just plant seeds and water them. Mother Nature does the rest. How hard is that?" Um, I'm pretty sure that is the recipe for famine.

  • JW||

    Critics worry that such crops carry risks not yet detected, and distrust the big agrochemical companies that have produced the few in wide use.

    Feel free to not drink the OJ. Especially since, evidently, the oranges may not exist without the gene-splicing, the end result is the same for them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think this is all about the Boycott Florida movement.

  • ||

    OJ got away with murder, so OJ must pay the price.

  • Swiss Servator - past LTC(ret)||

    Down with "The Juice"!

  • Ted S.||

    Don't mess with The Juice

  • Aresen||

    Critics worry that such crops carry risks not yet detected,

    Do they also worry about the undetected monsters under the bed?

    and distrust the big agrochemical companies that have produced the few in wide use.

    I can understand distrusting big companies, who are often in the Government's pocket. But if you think that whatever regulatory agency you put over them is not going to be subject to regulatory capture, you are dreaming of unicorns.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Dude, we voted for unicorns.

  • Swiss Servator - past LTC(ret)||

    I'M STILL WAITING FOR SKITTLE FARTING UNICORN, O LIGHTWORKER!

  • Rasilio||

    "But if you think that whatever regulatory agency you put over them is not going to be subject to regulatory capture"

    Um, that's actually why I have so much of a problem with the big agribusinesses, I don't want more regulations on them, I want legal protections on them eradicated so that if their GMO's become a problem for someone they can be properly sued and actually made to pay for the problem.

  • MappRapp||

    Dude knows he is talking a lot of smack. Wow.

    www.Global-Anon.com

  • Aresen||

    Didn't realize there were GMO poppies out there, Anon-bot.

  • ||

    Does anybody really need more than 7 oranges?

  • ||

    At the same time?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, there are jugglers. Personally, I wouldn't want to face down their union.

  • ||

    They will enjoy their grapefruit, just like the rest of us.

  • Matrix||

    you're a fucking sadist, aren't you?

  • anon||

    Sorry, I don't buy that anyone enjoys grapefruit.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I like pink grapefruit well enough. Naturally, growing up, we had a white grapefruit tree. Good thing we had orange trees, too, or I'd have lost my mind.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Ruby red grapefruits and juice are really, really good.

  • Ted S.||

    There are all sorts of crazy fetishes out there.

    I'm sure that somewhere, somebody has a thing for grapefruits.

  • SKR||

    If you pour in enough vodka and sugar pretty much anything becomes palatable eventually.

  • Matrix||

    If we continue to bioengineer foods, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes will be a real thing!!!

    -anti-biotech nutjob

  • anon||

    That's a bad thing?

  • SKR||

    How can we trick the enviros to think the killer tomatoes are an heirloom variety they have to plant?

  • DontShootMe||

    So, when the scientific consensus is that the AGW is real and a threat, that consensus is good.

    When scientific consensus is that GMOs are safe and you can eat them, that consensus is bad.

    When scientific consensus is that vaccines are safe and effective, that consensus is bad.

    Wow, it's hard to think like a progressive.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    That's your problem. Progressives don't "think", they emote.

  • Metazoan||

    It's sad though, that on many libertarian FB pages, the fans are filled with anti-GMO nutbags. They think things like "you changed the plant's DNA, and changing DNA is what causes cancer, so it causes cancer!"

    As a life scientist, fuck that.

  • anon||

    As a life scientist, fuck that.

    Would that make you a biologist or a chemist?

  • Ted S.||

  • Metazoan||

    haha, I'm a computational biologist.

  • SKR||

    Hey me too. Well, ok I've just programmed the game of life. Nevermind.

  • Nazdrakke||

    that on many libertarian FB pages, the fans are filled with anti-GMO nutbags.

    OMG this.

  • ||

    GMO this.

  • anon||

    Also, real libertarians don't have real facebook pages, so there!

  • Warrren||

    Orange you gad I'm not a banana?

  • Generic Stranger||

    Knife!

  • ||

    The anti-GMO people are pernicious scum whose very existence is an affront to reason and logic. I loathe everything they represent.

  • Nazdrakke||

    I like to agree with them that GMO food should be labeled to make it easier for me to be sure I am only eating GMO foods. The look on their faces as the words connect in their frothing little brains is awesome at times.

  • anon||

    I refute your argument with Childrunz. I win.

  • Libertymike||

    What about anarcho-free enterprise-individualists who abhor special interest legislation immunizing crony capitalist companies that produce GE food from liability?

  • anon||

    I know someone like that, but she's only against companies suing farmers for getting GM crops blown onto their land and not paying for it; which, I guess I'm against that too.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    No one has ever been sued for that.

  • Metazoan||

    This. The only stories even remotely relating to this are farmers who purposefully loaded their fields with GM crops, without a license. I recognize that many here do not support patents, and I see their point. However, most anti-GM people don't take that route. They just HATE MONSANTO DURR

  • ||

    In one case, the farmer openly admits that he purposefully planeted GMO seeds. He liked them so much he wanted to plant two crops a year.
    How the hell is that guy supposed to be an anti-GMO hero?

  • ||

    I'm against believing everything you read on organic food message boards, and in favor of reading actual court records.

  • anon||

    Hey, I agree with you HM. In fact, my words were specifically: "I don't think that's ever happened, but if it did, I'd be against that."

  • Aresen||

    HM

    You can't have a conversation with anti-GMO people if you insist on bringing facts into the discussion.

  • R C Dean||

    Libertymike, could you perhaps fill us in on this special interest legislation? I haven't heard of it, so I'm curious.

  • creech||

    All the anti-GMO people need to do is persuade those farming/processing/selling non-GMO foods to say so in big letters on
    their products. Then any food not labeled can be assumed to be GMO.
    The consumer can decide and no additional laws are necessary to implement this. I know, I know, "think of the children who can't read" and "people are stoopid, so we need Top.Men."

  • MuyBienPatricio||

    I remember a few months back in my Environmental Biology class, we were having a debate in our online discussion boards about biotech crops and GMO's I stated my case defending biotech crops and used Ron's "Top 5 Lies about Biotech Crops," article as the source that I was using to back up my claims. The next day in class my teacher mentioned that he enjoyed the debate we were having on the boards, and dismissed Ron's article as "some weird article filled with conservative garbage." the rest of the class then proceeded to laugh. :(

  • R C Dean||

    Joke's on your teacher, MBP.

    That wasn't conservative garbage, that was libertarian garbage.

    What twit, that he can't tell the difference. Jeez.

  • SKR||

    Environmental Biology? Well there's your problem right there.

  • ||

    It's so true to form for a progressive to abuse a position of authority to sway a debate like that. He's the teacher! So OF COURSE he can mock and humiliate any student that says anything he doesn't like. What and asshole.

  • FatDrunkAndStupid||

    I know it isn't popular among the Cosmotarian strain, but anti-GMO sentiment is just as strong among libertarians as it is among Progressives. Visit a Ron Paul forum, Lew Rockwell, or any of the sites associated with the heavily libertarian populated Cross Fit, Paleo, or Primal communities and you will see ample proof. As I've written before, the problem with Reason when it comes to science is that they adopt a smug attitude in fields where it is simply inappropriate to be smug. Climate Science is one of those fields. Nutrition is another. And what's with the "profit hungry" smear on organic food peddlers? First, since when is that in and of itself a bad thing. And second, in an article where you are defending Big Agriculture how is a discussion on relative profit hungriness going to help your cause? Are you really suggesting that my local organic farm is more "profit hungry" than Monsanto or ADM? I pay more for my pastured organic eggs because pastured organic eggs cost a hell of a lot more to produce than CAFO eggs. The price mark up in organic and naturally raised foods are tied up in higher production costs, not higher profits for the producers (the one exception to this might be the faux "organic" products peddled by Big Agriculture themselves).

  • ||

    I know it isn't popular among the Cosmotarian strain

    Not sure what this part means. What specifically isn't popular with the "cosmotarians" (which I almost exclusively see as a buzzword meaning "libertarians who believe or say things I don't like")?

  • ||

    Is it "smug" to rely on actual science?
    Is it inappropriate to rely on actual science when it comes to nutrition?

  • ||

    And what's with the "profit hungry" smear on organic food peddlers

    Don't come here and pretend we're criticizing the profit motive. No one cares that organic companies are trying to make a profit, they just shouldn't hypocritically excoriate the competition for trying to make a profit while doing the exact same thing themselves.

    We don't care for the self-righteous propaganda about how the competitors to organic foods are money-grubby bastards and how the organic sellers are noble paragons of virtue only out to help their fellow man.

    The price mark up in organic and naturally raised foods are tied up in higher production costs, not higher profits for the producers

    Well duh. The main reason they cost more is obviously increased production costs, that's one of the main criticisms for organic.

  • MappRapp||

    What a great plan dude, I like htat.

    www.Global-Anon.com

  • lykorian||

    As for anti-GMO arguments, I find Taleb's to be one of the few convincing ones:

    "What people miss is that the modification of crops impacts everyone and exports the error from the local to the global. I do not wish to pay —or have my descendants pay — for errors by executives of Monsanto. We should exert the precautionary principle there —our non-naive version — simply because we would discover errors after considerable damage."

    http://longplayer.org/what/whatelse/letters.php

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