Most morning, before I leave for school, I have breakfast and drink a full glass of orange juice. An essential part of my morning ritual, I never really thought about where this particular drink came from, and what had it gone through from beginning to its final destination to me.
Orange juice begins at orange groves. The major distributors of oranges are the United States and Brazil. In the United States, Florida and California are the leading states for growing oranges for the nation. Large plantations are devoted to cultivating oranges and harvested seasonally. They are picked from these plantations where they are sent to extraction plants where the juice is collected, pasteurized and sent for distribution. There are two types of orange juice, fresh and concentrated. Concentrated, which I was unfamiliar of, is when the juice is extracted and the water is taken out from it, making it concentrated. When it goes into the distribution process, water is put back in and the juice is then drunk.
Orange Juice Process
Orange juice is inflicted with a disease that has no known cure at the moment called Huanglongbing. Known as the Yellow Dragon Disease or HLB, is a bacterial infection carried by psyllid which causes a disease that makes oranges turn green, called greening. It may seem like a early orange fruit, but it is a disease that can kill the entire tree all together. Due to this bacterium, there have been many different measures to combat the disease including the use of pesticides and research in genetic engineering. Research includes sequencing of genomes of different citrus trees and the bacteria itself to try and develop a resistance to fight HLB. Attempts at cross breeding different citrus fruits that have developed some form of resistance are being tested to find a potential cure. Even the use of guava leaves have been shown to provide some type of cure, but research has not been fruitful in helping oranges.
"Greening" of Oranges
The future in the orange industry holds the potential of biotechnology intervening to sustain the production similarly to papaya. HLB is a crippling disease that has found no cure and seems that biotechnology will have a stake in finding that cure. Whether or not it occurs today, or tomorrow, if the state of the orange industry follows a continuing decline, it will be important to develop transgenic oranges whether we want to have them or not. Some research has been developed to create a transgenic orange called blood oranges which is not for HLB, but for heart health benefits to help prevent heart attack and stroke.
Not a grapefruit, but blood oranges.
Luckily I have an orange tree in my backyard, so if at any point I do feel uncomfortable with GMO of oranges, I have a backup.