Citrus Growers Optimistic About Genetically Engineered Trees

Jan 12, 2017
Originally published on January 11, 2017 4:30 pm

Despite a decade of bad harvests, a Florida lawmaker says the state’s signature industry is recovering. Growers are optimistic new genetically engineered trees will survive the deadly citrus greening disease.

A small bacterium is ravaging Florida’s citrus industry, killing thousands of trees and forcing many growers out of business. The crisis is spurring state regulators to invest in genetically engineered trees that are disease resistant. Researchers are beginning to see positive results, though it may take a few years for crop yields to catch up. That’s according to Republican Ben Albritton, a state representative and fourth generation citrus grower.

“We’re putting trees in the ground now that are showing signs of resistance. Which means, instead of it really collapsing the tree over a three, four, five, six year period, it gives a much longer lifespan to the tree,” Albritton said.

Albritton says the investment in research, instead of marketing, is beginning to pay off.

“Been some difficult times, but many of us in the industry believe we’re at the bottom of the curve, and that we’re heading in a good direction,” he said.

In 2016, state lawmakers allocated $8 million for citrus research, and this year they’re considering asking for more.

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