Citrus greening, or HLB (huanglongbing), is responsible for the decline in citrus growth from Florida to California. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports citrus production will decline 14% for 2014/2015.
Many groves were given grants to research HLB, including Southern Gardens Citrus. With a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Florida operation was able to grow a variety of oranges, grapefruit and lemons with a defensin gene extracted from spinach. Defensins comprise peptides that kill bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Rick Kress, president of the EPA says, "Greenhouse and field results of the patented technology show resistance to the disease."
Kress acknowledges the controversy associated with GMOs, stating the company is assessing data to show that GMO fruits are no different from biologically derived fruits. He adds, "The disease affects the entire industry and as we're working forward to finding a potential solution, it will apply to the whole industry, whether juice, fresh fruit and byproducts.