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Biotech Technology

GMO Oranges? Altering a Fruit's DNA To Save It 358

Posted by timothy
from the you-wait-until-its-gmo-coffee-or-nothing-at-all dept.
biobricks writes "A New York Times story says the Florida orange crop is threatened by an incurable disease and traces the efforts of one company to insert a spinach gene in orange trees to fend it off. Not clear if consumers will go for it though." The article focuses on oranges, but touches on the larger world of GMO crop creation as well.
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GMO Oranges? Altering a Fruit's DNA To Save It

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:24AM (#44406023)

    Nature has been genetically modifying fruit for millions of years. Genetic modifications can be good, bad, or some of each.

    Just because something is "natural" doesn't mean it's good for you. Many natural things are quite deadly. Just because something is modified by humans doesn't mean it's bad for you. It might be! But you don't know that just because it's "genetically modified".

    • by Xicor (2738029) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:41AM (#44406125)
      certain companies that create genetically modified plants have left a bad taste in our mouths. and the problem is the government seems to support them even though they are total assholes. i dont mind the premise behind genetically modified foods... i mind the fact that companies can modify their strain of a plant to be incredibly dominant, which then spreads into other areas, giving the company grounds for a lawsuit. that being said, i think a lot of ppl dont like the idea of genetically modified foods because "humans shouldnt be playing god"... i believe they are under some misconception that there is a god playing a direct part in the evolution of plants and animals.
      • by pspahn (1175617) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @02:39PM (#44407517)

        i think a lot of ppl dont like the idea of genetically modified foods because "humans shouldnt be playing god"

        I presume you mean people like my grandmother? She and I had a conversation one day about assisted suicides. She's terribly Christian, and took the stance that even though this poor bastard had ALS and decided to end his days before the financial and emotional burdens became too much for his family, he was doing the wrong thing because "he was not letting God decide his fate".

        Which is complete horseshit.

        If he would have simply let God decide his fate, he would have passed long ago since he wouldn't have had any medication, or the ventilator, or other modern medical advancements to prop him up artificially.

        I understand her argument, and why she believes in it, I just simply think it's hypocritical.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        It's more than just a vague feeling that humans should not "play god". A lot of this stuff is basically self-certified. The manufacturer does the research, devises the tests and administers them to show that it is safe for human consumption. The regulators don't have the resources to do big, long term trials and besides which the GMO companies are not willing to wait decades for the results.

        Chances are most of it is fine, but as we have seen in the past with various pesticides and herbicides sometimes they

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      Genetic modification is in itself neither good or bad, it's all the question of which genetic modification that is done and the effects of it.

      One problem that is common today is that there's a tendency to only grow a few very high-yielding crops in large volumes, and that means that if some disease starts to adapt to a certain crop then there's a risk that it can have a big impact.

      Nature itself has a tendency to adapt, it's a continuing arms race between pests and crops, but when humans are involved the nat

      • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @12:09PM (#44406641)

        Nature is full of extinction events. There is no particular reason to believe that anything that nature does will be beneficial to people; it's a wholly random thing.

        The idea that nature is something uniformly beneficial is silly and naive.

        Controlling the environment became the lot of man when he learned to make fire. Genetic engineering is just the latest manifestation of this.

    • by lxs (131946) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:48AM (#44406161)

      Nature doesn't care whether you live or die, so it is free to modify plants and animals at random even if a mutation breeds an organism that ends up killing off half the species on the planet. Humans are responsible for any harm that they end up causing their fellow creatures so it's right that we hold them to a higher standard.

    • by SlashDread (38969)

      You are correct, on the surface of things.
      However the anti-GMO argument is not just "GMO is always bad for you". It just states, that GMO is a way to uncertain technique at this moment to blindly risk the worlds food supply.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rmstar (114746)

      Just because something is modified by humans doesn't mean it's bad for you. It might be! But you don't know that just because it's "genetically modified".

      In principle, that is correct. OTOH, leaving something powerful like genetic modification of organisms in the hands of corporations (with their well known behavioral disorders [siivola.org]) is really a very bad idea.

      And one of the primary negative aspects of the startup way of advancing science and technology is that after some point companies have a very strong incent

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "Just because something is modified by humans doesn't mean it's bad for you. It might be! "

      I will sure be bad for sales in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

    • However the multinational corporations (and their pet politicians) currently pushing this have shown time and again that they cannot be trusted to give a shit about people's welfare. Until that changes expect GMO to be viewed with extreme suspicion.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:24AM (#44406025) Homepage

    No. Cannot and Will Not go there.

  • by Lairdykinsmcgee (2500904) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:32AM (#44406067)
    Genetic modification of crops in a formal sense scares people for now. But, this is a young technology, and current genetic modifications are made, to a certain extent, blindly. While these modifications have known effects, they are also bound or at least potentially bound to have unknown effects as well. The reason, however, that these do not scare me so much is that this technology will only progress, and we will only gain a better understanding of how these modifications are affecting our crops. Hopefully, we can make decent decisions ab out regulating this in the mean time, but I think it won't be terribly long before we can make genetic modifications that are solely safe and hopefully better for consumers. In terms of the historical progression of agriculture, there has never been a time in human history that we have NOT modified the genes of our crops; only, we have done this through controlled abuse of the relatively quick and convenient evolution of crops given their short lifespan (new generations are quick to rise). Barely anything we eat today would be naturally occurring in actual nature. We designed these things to occur through comparatively (to GMO) crude methods. Bigger watermelons, redder strawberries, beefier wheat, or what have you. GMO could be the next step in this progression of healthy and nutritious foods IF done correctly. All the same, with knuckle-heads controlling the direction of GMO, it could have vastly different and unknown consequences. I'm simultaneously nervous and interested to see where it goes with a little more time.
    • by Xicor (2738029)
      yea, i dont think anyone has forgotten the killer bee incident.
  • by WillyWanker (1502057) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:34AM (#44406077)

    Once you understand how commercial orange juice is made I guarantee you'll never want to drink it again.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You know the kind that have been selectively bred over thousands of years and would never have happened by chance. The kind that are now grown in huge monocultures that are all susceptible to the same diseases like these oranges. I don't want people messing with my food!

  • by AttillaTheNun (618721) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:11AM (#44406273)

    As stated by others, this is a natural phenomenon and is only a problem for modern industrial agriculture practices, especially those based on the mass monocropping of a few select breeds to feed the world. Putting all of our eggs in a few baskets is just ignorant. An ecosystem requires diversity to survive.

    This smells like a scheme to make GMO crops more acceptible to the public, suggesting only science can save the oranges and therefore we'll just have to get use to the idea of GMO crops, as if there were no other viable alternatives.

    Here's an alternative - replace monocrop orchards with polyculture farms (i.e. food forest) that are based on the same principles of natural ecosystems. Their diversity is what has allowed them to survive just fine without human interaction for longer than we've been around to fuck up the works.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:36AM (#44406405)

      From TFA:

      “In all of cultivated citrus, there is no evidence of immunity,” the plant pathologist heading a National Research Council task force on the disease said.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      But the basic premise of agriculture conflicts with a diverse ecosystem. Farmers could plant a jungle, but their yield would be far lower & subsequently costs would be a lot more, I doubt it would be possible to sustain 7 billion people that way.

      And all that to prevent using GMO crops, which are totally harmless to our health.

    • by HiThere (15173)

      Monoculture is important. (In an earlier post I made this very point.) But almost equally important is rapid transportation. This allows infective organisms to spread world-wide VERY quickly.

      • But almost equally important is rapid transportation.

        What do you mean by rapid? Ships, even sailing ships, are plenty fast enough to spread all sorts of agricultural pests.

    • replace monocrop orchards with polyculture farms

      The ironic thing if scare-mongerers like you were not drumming up fear of GMO foods, every orchard would probably have many different varieties of even a single crop, each with a different GMO variant to test out some new flavor or ability.

      GMO fears are what is leading to monoculture, because you are blocking scientific progress on any possible changes that can be made to food crops.

    • by Type44Q (1233630)
      How dare you come on here spouting common sense! :p
  • It might be worth it, after all, what's the point of having this knowledge and not use it.
  • by markdavis (642305) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:30AM (#44406363)

    >"Florida orange crop is threatened by an incurable disease"

    And perhaps that is because they plant millions of the same species/strain with no natural variation? Haven't we learned yet how bad that is?

  • Somebody has to speak for these oranges. You all got on this website for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I’m asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make oranges...better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave.

  • No oranges.

    The idiots that oppose protecting a worldwide food crop from certain extinction because they're scared of science ought be ignored flat out in this case.

  • by arielCo (995647) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:56AM (#44406543)

    Quoth TFA:

    “In all of cultivated citrus, there is no evidence of immunity,” the plant pathologist heading a National Research Council task force on the disease said.

    Deal with it: there's no all-wise Mother Nature who has arranged for the perfect harmony of all beings. Species evolve taking advantage, in spite of, or in a mutual-benefit relationship with other; and then sometimes because the other simply isn't around. Previously isolated species may meet, and whole taxa may thrive or perish.

    Citrus greening disease [wikipedia.org] has been around for a century across species, and it's incurable. The alternatives are 1. eradicating the pathogen (good luck), 2. eradicating the vector (even harder, and craptons of pesticides are required), 3. making the vector immune (read: genetic manipulation), or 4. making the plant immune (again, genetic manipulation). Pick your poison.

  • Not clear if consumers will go for it though.

    Fortunately most of them will never know. :p

    • Not clear if consumers will go for it though.

      Fortunately most of them will never know. :p

      Why is that fortunate? Do you fancy yourself part of a technocratic elite that always knows best? Label the stuff and let people decide for themselves.

  • Or they could, y'know, plant several varieties of orange trees to hedge against a narrow epidemic. Like, say, a parasite that his spinach really hard...

    • by vux984 (928602)

      Or they could, y'know, plant several varieties of orange trees to hedge against a narrow epidemic. Like, say, a parasite that his spinach really hard...

      Great idea. If only it was a narrow epidemic. But its not, so know what?

      This particular disease affects every single citrus plant out there. Not just all varieties of orange, but also lemons, limes, grapefruit. Doesn't matter what you plant, if its citrus this disease will kill it.

  • The problem with GMO is not the science of it, not the benefit of it, it is that GMO is driven by short term profit, plain and simple. If a company can splice in a beneficial trait for short term profit, they will do it. No questions.

    The problem arises in not requiring or possibly even being able to conceive the mid or long term consequences.

    An example is a story I read a few years ago... basically an ecosystem had collapsed because of the elimination of wolves. The strange part was that the system was co

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