By Barbara H. Peterson

Farm Wars

America’s oranges are now in the crosshairs of a genetic modification juggernaut that is sweeping this country and leaving in its wake a swath of destruction so wide and so utterly decimating that recovery seems a distant dream.

The genetic modification of corn and soy has succeeded in infiltrating nearly every processed food in America, with wheat and alfalfa soon to be next. Now it’s oranges. But why?

The orange is the second most profitable fruit crop in America after the grape. Valued at 1.5 billion in 2009, it accounts for 1/6 of all fruit and nut cash receipts. Because it requires a tropical or subtropical climate to flourish, commercial orange production is limited to just four states: Florida, California, Texas and Arizona.

While California does produce the majority of the fresh fruit, Florida dominates the orange juice market. And since orange juice is far more popular than fresh oranges, the Sunshine State rules the orange industry. At last count, more than seventy percent of the oranges grown in America are Florida oranges.

Florida orange juice is the single most profitable and distinctive fruit product in the state. The industry is responsible for over eighty percent of the US supply. As a result, America rarely imports orange juice. (

It only makes sense for the biotech industry to go after the largest and most profitable crops. The bigger the crop the better. Why waste time on smaller crops when the larger ones produce more income, and provide more control over production and distribution?

The excuse that is being used for this genetic takeover of the orange industry is a disease called “greening.” 

Citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing (HLB) or yellow dragon disease, is one of the most serious citrus diseases in the world. It is a bacterial disease that greatly reduces production, destroys the economic value of fruit, and can kill trees. (APHIS Factsheet PDF )

An insect called a psyllid spreads the disease. This disease was detected in Florida in 2005.

The Asian citrus psyllid, which has been detected in the United States, bears the scientific name Diaphorina citri Kuwayama and is widely distributed in southern Asia and parts of Mexico and Brazil. (APHIS Factsheet)

Since there is no known cure, the best defense is to control the psyllid populations. There are several natural ways to control these pests such as:

  1. Topical applications of insecticidal soaps and neem oils
  2. Natural predators such as lady beetles, lacewings, spiders, and parasitic wasps
  3. Environmental controls such as removing infected branches or trees, creating new hybrids, and planting guava trees among the citrus trees. Infestations seem to be eliminated when the guava trees are used. (Insect Library)

But the USDA is not interested in these natural alternatives.

Southern Gardens is a unit of Florida-based U.S. Sugar Corp and it has been working, under field trial permits issued by the USDA’s Biotechnology Bioregulatory Services arm, with researchers at Texas A&M University and a Florida company called Integrated Plant Genetics on the development of transgenic greening-resistant trees.

Mirkov’s own work, which he said could lead to the first commercial plantings in as little as three years, involves inserting a few genes from a plant that he identified only as “commonly consumed around the world,” into citrus trees to make them resistant to greening. (Reuters)

Not only are genetically modified orange trees being touted as the savior of America’s orange industry, but research for this technology is being outsourced to China.

In a bid to curb overall costs, but also to accelerate research, Arnold said an agreement with the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences in China was being used to conduct some of the more labor-intensive work into psyllids, citrus germplasms and disease resistance.

“The labor in China is reasonable and inexpensive, so we’re taking advantage of that,” Arnold said. “They can hire a whole line of technicians, maybe 70 technicians and line them up, for the same amount of money that it would take us to hire three or four,” he said. (Reuters)

And if that doesn’t make you mad, consider that when China faced this same problem, they solved it by natural means.

“In some places in China they essentially went to a scorched-earth policy and then came back in and replanted with healthy materials and implemented area-wide pest control strategies,” Gmitter said.

China conquered greening without biotechnology! So why do we need GMO oranges? The answer is, we don’t. However, the biotech giants would like this very, very much. And they don’t care what country begins the assault.

In fact, the labor is so cheap in China, that it is only logical to assume that China is now being set up to take over orange production just like it did with apples. And those oranges will be transgenic if the USDA gets its way.

He said China could become the world’s leading orange juice producer in as little as 10 years, with or without GMO crops, thanks to advantages including lower land and labor costs. (Reuters)

Fifteen years ago, China grew fewer apples than the United States. Today, it grows five times as many – nearly half of all apples grown in the world.

China’s advantage is its cheap labor. A picker makes about 28 cents an hour, or $2 a day, according to the U.S. Apple Association. In 2005, workers in Pennsylvania made about $9 to $10 per hour, and those in Washington State about $14 per hour, the association said. (NY Times)

It is also interesting to note that the U.S. government classified citrus greening among “potential bioterror tools known as ‘select agents’ until about two years ago, severely limiting the scientific community’s ability to conduct research into the organism”  (Reuters).

This astounding information raises the following questions: Did the government intentionally keep people in the dark about this disease, so that no research could be done until the time was right and genetic modification could rush in and “solve” the problem? Why are we hearing that the greening problem is insurmountable by natural methods when China has proven otherwise? And last but not least, other than the obvious factor of cheap labor, why is genetic modification research being outsourced to China when the Chinese obviously do not need it if that county is not being set up to take control of orange production, which would essentially put us out of the orange business and force us into even more reliance on imported food? Wouldn’t it be safer if this research is conducted in the United States so that this proprietary technology could be kept local for America’s growers?

If China conducts the genetic research on a biotech solution to greening, and applies that research to its orange groves, then takes over the orange market like it did with apples, we not only lose another piece of an ever-decreasing agricultural base in this country, but our reliance on imported food will increase, and more jobs will be lost. Not to mention that another natural, healthy crop bites the dust through genetic modification.

© 2010 Barbara H. Peterson

APHIS Factsheet PDF:

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11 Responses to “GMO oranges, China, and the loss of another piece of America’s agricultural base”

  1. I thought it would be nice to praise our Creator now as King David did. (1Chronicles 29:10-13) 10: And David blesseth Jehovah before the eyes of all the assembly, and David saith, ‘Blessed [art] Thou, Jehovah, God of Israel our father, from age even unto age.
    11: To Thee, O Jehovah, [is] the greatness, and the might, and the beauty, and the victory, and the honour, because of all in the heavens and in the earth; to Thee, O Jehovah, [is] the kingdom, and he who is lifting up himself over all for head;
    12: and the riches, and the honour [are] from before Thee, and Thou art ruling over all, and in Thy hand [is] power and might, and in Thy hand, to make great, and to give strength to all.
    13: ‘And now, our God, we are giving thanks to Thee, and giving praise to Thy beauteous name;

  2. steve says:

    Another advantage China has is its production and minimal regulation of pesticides.

  3. Thomas,

    No big deal? I think you missed the point. The point is, another crop is biting the dust as far as being taken over by the biotech industry and foreign interests. If you don’t want to eat oranges or soy, then don’t, but saying that it is no big deal that they are being taken over by mega-corporations that have no conscience such as Monsanto is counterproductive at best.

  4. Pat says:

    So why not beat China at their own game. Decades ago Prisons & Mental institutions in the US used to grow their own food, cows and crops in fields as close to NY City as Fishkill NY and Poughkeepsie NY. Why not use prisons to add to our agricultural products and let prisoners grow some of our crops. That would give the prisoners a bit of work and some money in their pockets to repay those who they injured in their crimes. China is notorious for using prisoners to do labor and that is why we cannot compete.

  5. Annie Linux says:

    We are headed for complete ruination, not just food control but depopulation and slavery. Just open your eyes – by its fruit you will know the tree – well look at what is going on around you with all these new losses of liberty and brutality from the government. It’s hell in a hand basket.

  6. ThomasT says:

    GMO,or ntural soy? No big deal here as unfermented soy is an extremely toxic non-food and belongs on NO plate nor in any animal trough!

    Oranges are eaten, I assume, because the marketing hype told you about their viatmin C. HOWEVER, you would need to eat 50 or so oranges, that have been sun ripened akk day, then picked and immediately eaten. that is to get the 3 grams of vitamin C that have been precisely calculated by H R Clark, PhD ND, as needed to revv-up your CD4, CD8 etc killer white blood cells. Note that `fresh` supermarket oranges have been measured with ZERO(!!) vitamin C.

    BUT, we have another problem here. Eating more than three oranges a day, (even with no other fruit or sugars), raises uric acid levels. These raised levels caiuse obesty, raise blood pressure and diabetes 2 risk, and kidbey damage. Jognson R U of CO USA 2010.

    The high carbs of many oranges cause obesity, and raise heart disease-causing try-glyxerides.

    My intake of unfermented soy is zero. I will admit to some orange every two weeks or so, used to flavur the roast duck sauce.

  7. One Individual says:

    BIOTECH CEO’s and the finanical junkies and money Whores who will try to profit from destroying what nature and the creator has blessed us with will be the first ones to go….THAT I PROMISE!!!!!

  8. bert says:

    dont worry you labrats won’t be able to find out whats being done to you soon anyway.

  9. Jason says:

    Eradicate The Bugs that Infect the trees and Do Not play with the genetics of the Orange Trees You Mad Scientists out there. What happen to pest control genetics? Treat the cause then you don’t need to treat the plant. Right? What are you Scientists, Agenda 21 supporters? “Better deaths through genetic manipulations of the plants that feed population”, I supose.

  10. Linda says:

    I am waiting for the day when corporations are put out of business in the U.S. and let them outsource their headquartersor overseas and see how miserable that is. They have all the advantages of tax breaks here and then charge us a fortune to import their frankenfood back here. The U.S. does not need to outsource any of its food since we have been producing our own food since the beginning of time. The diseases that are here now have been brought in by immigrants to contaminate our food supply. Let us get back to times where we took care of our own needs and our own people and live a simpler way of life without the interference of government trying to bankrupt the U.S.