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Field trials for GM oranges could soon begin in Florida

Posted: August 12, 2013 |   Comments

( A new kind of genetically modified organism might make its debut soon in Florida. The new plant is a type of Hamlin orange tree that has been genetically engineered to produce a natural insecticide to ward off Asian citrus psyllids.

The trees were developed by scientists from Cornell University over the course of three years.

The Asian citrus psyllids carry a bacteria that causes citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing. This disease, although not harmful to humans, causes citrus fruit to stay green and makes it have an off taste, as well as stunting the growth of or even killing citrus trees.

The scientists observed that some plants naturally repel psyllids due to a pesticide that they produce. The researchers then isolated the gene responsible for the natural pesticide production and inserted it into Hamlin orange trees.

Field trials are expected to commence as soon as the scientists are able to gain the required permits.

The researchers are working with Southern Gardens Inc. of Clewiston. Herbert Aldwinckle, a professor of plant pathology and one of the researchers involved in the project, says he hopes to have at least preliminary trial results within a year.

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