Insight and investigations from our expert reporters
Waiter, there’s a bug in my orange juice
When former beauty queen Anita Bryant chirped more than four decades ago: “A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine,” she wasn’t talking about green oranges or genetically altered ones, but that was then.
Now, an insect-borne bacterial disease known as “greening” threatens the very survival of Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry. Calvin Arnold, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, believes genetic engineering holds the only hope for a cure.
Also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), or “yellow dragon disease,” greening was identified in China more than a century ago and has no known cure. It is spread by a very small bug called a psyllid.
Total citrus acreage in Florida has been dropping since 1998, as the industry consolidated and farmers sold off land to real estate developers. But greening has been a major factor in more recent declines and a corresponding drop in production.