Tree vaccine: ‘Weaponized’ GM virus could save Florida citrus industry from greening disease

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Florida’s citrus growers are running out of time. Since 2005, when a deadly disease called citrus greening first showed up in the state, they’ve been fighting a losing battle to slow the spread of the sugar-sucking bacterium behind the scourge. Today, it has infected 90 percent of Florida’s citrus groves.

One way to ensure the survival of Florida’s citrus industry—and most of the country’s orange juice—is to produce resistant trees, either with traditional breeding or genetic engineering. Both approaches are proving problematic. Despite exhaustive searches, no one has found a naturally immune tree. And it will take 10 to 20 years to engineer and approve an artificially resistant tree, even with new gene-editing tools like CRISPR. Growers can’t wait that long. So to buy them time, one local citrus company is developing something more like an arboreal vaccine, using a genetically modified virus to deliver bacteria-killing spinach proteins.

If all goes well, growers could be using it as soon as 2019, pending additional EPA approval. That’s lightning speed compared to making a resistant tree from scratch.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: To save Florida’s famous oranges, scientists race to weaponize a virus

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