GM and Threatened Fruits

Amidst recently publicized efforts in Japan and Italy to keep out GM products, orange farmers around the world are considering turning to genetic engineering to save oranges from a rapidly spreading disease. According to the NYTimes article “A Race to Save the Orange by Altering its DNA” this turn is a reluctant one and it began only after years of looking for a naturally occurring disease-resistant variety. I am generally against the creation of GMOs which may unwantedly contaminate regular crops and spur licensing penalties. But in a case where it truly seems like all varieties are threatened, contamination seems like less of an issue and radical intervention seems more warranted. And yet, such a disaster could not take place with the enormous monocultural citrus industry. If a disease-resistant orange is created, how will it be distributed? Will it be licensed? How will benefit be distributed among the world’s citrus producers?
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2 thoughts on “GM and Threatened Fruits

  1. It’s a real concern. It is almost certain that this would “save” the orange at the cost of yoking all citrus farmers to the predatory practices of Monsanto or some other GMO license holder.

    • Kress says that his company would make the oranges available in exchange for a royalty fee. It’s not clear how this is (or whether it is) different from licensing. I guess when faced with having no oranges to grow and losing their investment in land and infrastructure, it might not be more of a cost than the alternatives for those who would buy the trees/royalties. It’s difficult to say. Selling seeds/plants is an nothing new and it would be great if a GMO developer would figure out an alternative (less predatory, more just) model for making their products available from those currently practices by Biotech.

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