A tiny insect, no bigger than the head of a pin, is threatening to topple the multibillion-dollar citrus industry in the U.S. by infecting millions of acres of orchards with an incurable bacterium called citrus greening disease.
Trees infected with the disease, also called Huanglongbing or HB, bear small, misshapen, bitter-tasting green fruit and often die within five years. Currently, there's no known cure for the disease, which has cost the U.S. citrus industry billions of dollars in crop production and thousands of jobs since it was first identified in Florida in 2005, according to agriculture experts.
Among other solutions, scientists are exploring the possibility of breeding genetically modified trees that are resistant to the disease.
But given the controversy over the safety of genetically modified food, scientists need to know whether producers will adopt this technology and whether shoppers will buy and consume GM citrus fruit.
A team of scientists from several universities surveyed a representative sample of U.S. consumers and conducted focus groups to better understand American consumers' attitudes about GM food and agriculture. Here are some of their results:
- About 50% of the consumers surveyed had positive attitudes toward GM science.
- Nearly 37% felt neutral toward GM science.
- About 14% had negative perceptions of GM science.
Most of the people who were receptive to GM science were white males who were millennials or younger, the data indicated. They were highly educated -- most held a bachelor's degree or higher -- and affluent, with annual incomes of $75,000 or greater.
Women, on the other hand, constituted 64 percent of the group with negative feelings about GM science. Baby boomers and older adults were nearly twice as likely to fall into this group. People in this group also were less educated -- about half reported some college but no degree.
Read more about this study at Science Daily.
citrus greening (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus): J.M. Bové, INRA Centre de Recherches de Bordeaux, Bugwood.org