It's a morning ritual -- pad over to the refrigerator, grab the orange juice and start your day with sunshine in a glass. Now picture a morning where juice is hard to come by and chances are it won't be Florida juice at all.
That's the scenario now playing out in Florida where a phenomenon called citrus greening has already infected hundreds of thousands of orange trees. It turns the fruit sour and leaves them half green and it has spread around the world.
We're not talking a small operation here -- Southern Gardens had 2.5-million trees in cultivation. What Kress decided, according to an article by Amy Harmon in The New York Times, was to alter the DNA of the orange trees to resist the disease.
Thus the quandary -- saving the trees and the juice they produce while at the same time battling the growing consumer resistance to genetically modified crops and food.
In the case of Kress' orange trees, the most effective remedy appears to be the joining of a gene from spinach into the trees. So far it works on the 300 trees they've planted.
But a Reuters story alluding to their genetic modification program brought a ton of negative comments. Calling the plan frankenfood was just the start. Many of the commenters lambasted Monsanto, a St. Louis-based chemical company that wasn't even mentioned in the article.
So here's Kress' dilemma -- save the trees and the $9 billion Florida orange industry and face the wrath of the genetically engineered critics or do nothing and watch an industry wither.
Farmers have already tried to pesticide the bugs that transfer the disease into submission, and while it slowed them for a time, they are back and more pesticide resistant than ever.
There are no natural cures for the disease -- resistant trees cannot be found anywhere in nature.
Growers weren't enamored with the plan either and some of the ignorance was telling. One grower asked if the juice would be green and taste like spinach. Not so much, not at all really.
We've reached a point in our understanding of genes and DNA that science can now provide answers where none were available before. Hence the spinach gene tied into oranges.
And it's not that genetic tinkering hasn't occurred in the past because it certainly has. The oranges we use now are entirely different than the oranges we started with. The same is true of apples -- we wouldn't have Honey Crisp, Galas or Fujis if there weren't genetic changes being put into place.
Somehow we don't seem to mind when genetic changes yield a Gala apple, but do bridle when Monsanto produces pesticide resistant soybean seeds.
Monsanto gets the grief because it developed the soybean seeds to be resistant to its pesticide and they've been very aggressive on suing farmers who don't continue to buy the seed stock each year and try to move away from the Monsanto juggernaut. It's not a pretty picture.
But as is the case of the orange trees, we have to look beyond that chemical giant and see what's good for agriculture that can be safe and worthwhile. Inserting a spinach gene into orange trees seems reasonable and the testing that goes along with it is under way and appears good.
With the hard work that's gone into it and the potential saving of the Florida orange industry, we may still be able to head for the frig and get that glass of liquid sunshine each morning. And no, it won't taste like spinach.
Missing Russ already
It was nice to run across Russ Langs out in the community, always a guy who asked how things were going and was interested in your response. His death recently comes as a shock as the last time I saw him earlier this summer all seemed fine.
I've known Russ and his wife, Karen, seemingly forever and when you ran across one of them the other would be there. They were heavily involved in tennis in this area which was fitting as they met on a tennis court in college.
Russ was a Rotarian and if there was a Rotary function, he was there pitching in. Always.
He was one who always tried to do his best for his community and did. We are a better community because Russ and Karen made this their home. He'll be sorely missed.
Kendall P. Stanley is retired editor of the News-Review. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily of the Petoskey News-Review or its employees.