Bacon in Your Orange Juice?

GM Oranges Could Include Pigs' DNA

For years, Florida farmers have successfully combated the Asian citrus psyllid — the tiny insect that transfers Citrus Greening from an infected tree to a healthy one — by spraying pesticides on their orchards and burning tress that show signs of the deadly disease. But these efforts are no longer enough. America’s favorite breakfast juice is being seriously threatened, as are the livelihoods of Florida orange growers.

In response, farmers have turned to genetic modification to create a tree that is immune to the bacteria. The New York Times reported that, at one point, orange farmers even considered using pigs’ DNA before dismissing the idea as too radical for the public to consume.

GMOs have inspired significant controversy. On the one hand, it is hard to blame the farmers for trying to save their businesses — and in this case, the beloved orange. On the other hand, consumers have the right to know what they are putting into their own bodies.

The introduction of animal genes into fruits and vegetables highlights the need for transparency for religious, ethical and health reasons. Certain sects of Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity consider eating pork a sin. Most vegetarians and vegans believe it is a moral wrong. In fact, consumers with an objection to ingesting animal products go to great lengths to avoid contaminated foods — reading labels on processed products, inquiring directly of chefs at restaurants and forgoing any questionable meal, no matter how enticing. But, even the most conscientious eater is unlikely to imagine that a pig’s gene could make its way into fresh squeezed orange juice, or any other type of raw, whole produce, without a label that identifies the introduction of an animal-derived ingredient.

If agricultural corporations are permitted to scientifically alter foods, the public should have the right to choose whether to purchase and consume their products. Farming operations should have to weigh the consequences of modifying food or leaving it as is — as does any other corporation faced with a difficult business decision.

Some people may be OK with a little bacon in their orange juice, especially as opposed to no or pricier OJ instead. Other people may reject the product, but it is their right to do so. Regardless of which side of the G.M.O. table they sit, they have the right to know what they are actually eating.

 

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