When it comes to healthy beverages, a glass of orange juice is in the same murky category as coffee and wine. Too much of it is not good for your body, but an occasional glass may actually be quite beneficial. Also, the health benefits one may receive come secondary to the fact that it's freakin' delicious.
Oh, sure, there may be some people (i.e. weirdos) who can't wrap their heads around why everyone's so in love with it, or find the drink too acidic to be pleasant. And that's fair. Horribly wrong, but fair. Orange juice is beautiful gift that nature has given us, the ultimate nectar of the gods.
And it may soon be gone.
That's the takeaway from this horror story in the Washington Post about a disease that may ovetake our orange trees.
Over in Florida, a state that produces 80% of our country's O.J. (along with 99% of our "crazy Americans" stories, hey-oh!), there's a plague devastating orange trees. It's a bacterial strain from China that's been spreading from tree to tree, causing infections that make their roots deform, their fruits to fall prematurely, and finally end in a rotting death. It's spreading because of psyllids, tiny tree-hopping critters that feed on the leaves of the infected trees and carry the bacteria when they hop onto healthy ones; the article compares them to malaria-transferring mosquitos.
As of this writing, nearly half of the trees in Florida have this disease.
The scariest part of the whole mess is that there's no solution in sight, not even hints suggesting an imminent one. Scientists have been constantly working to find a solution -- last February, over 500 from 20 nations came to Orlando to try to solve the problem -- and roughly $80 million has been spent on research. The results thus far: nothing, nada, zilch.
But Florida and the U.S. Agriculture Department have one more option up their collective sleeve:
Researchers funded by the industry, the state and the U.S. Agriculture Department are exploring an option that could save the trees and their citrus, but also turn off consumers: engineering and planting genetically modified trees that are resistant to the bacteria carried by the psyllid.
That's right, folks. GMOs are being brought in as a possible solution.
(It's what Monsanto and company has been proclaiming they've been doing all along: Fixing problems that have no other solutions! And, also: Making billions of dollars while putting the world's health at risk!)
While GMOs have been increasingly common in the realm of soy and corn products, they have yet to fully attach themselves to the fruit sector. A lot of that has to do with the public's reluctance to allow GMO fruit into their grocery cart. (And a lot of that has to do with the fact that the GMO fruit they've made so far just doesn't look right.) And unless they're selling in the marketplace, farmers won't be shelling out the cash for genetically-modified trees. Until the public got over their fear -- which: good luck -- GMOs were going to generally steer clear of our fruit juice. Unless, of course, an uncontrollable act of nature happened.
Enter: A plague.
Now, there's no reason to spend words in this space detailing exactly why we should be nervous about GMOs; if you're here, you already know. But it's frightening that the main thing those mulling over the decision are worried about is the impact GMOs will have on the market. The big issue is endangering the health of the public with unproven genetic engineering. Because turning over the industry to GMO concerns is not just throwing something at the wall and hoping for it to stick. It's the nuclear option. It's Pandora's Box.
Once those GMOs get out there, there is no going back.
Want recipes and food news emailed directly to you? Sign up for the new Food newsletter here!