On Colbert Report the other night, I saw Eric Schlosser made a new movie bitching about GMOs and food production in the US, ‘Food Inc’.
Im not saying anything until I see it.
However I will use this flurry of ‘OMFG LIEK GMO FOOD IS GEIVING MAH CANKER AND MAEKING MAH FAAAAAT!’ news activity to talk about a super cool convergence of fresh fruit and epidemiology!
About 20 years ago, there was an epidemic of papaya ringspot virus in Hawaii. PRSV is carried by aphids, tree to tree, rendering the papaya trees dead. Well, worse than dead. More like plump reservoirs of PRSV, where aphids could pick up some PRSV to infect moar trees.
Decimated papayas in Hawaii. Until scientists created GMO papayas resistant to infection.
But some places (eg Japan) are still scared of GMOs, so they do not want. Need ‘organic’ papayas to sell to GMO newbs.
Neat solution: Create a barrier of GMO papaya around native papaya to act as infected-aphid-sinks, protecting the native papaya. This is the same principle of herd immunity: If 95% of the population is immunized against polio, the 5% that are underimmunized (or the offspring of cranks) are still protected!
In the HDOA plan, a 1,000-acre parcel of land in Kahuwai, which was isolated and predominantly upwind from the main planting areas in Puna, was targeted for nontransgenic fruit production destined for sale in Japan. About 600 acres were devoted to the production of nontransgenic Kapoho variety, and about 300 acres of the transgenic Rainbow was planted to create a buffer of resistant plants. The transgenic plants served to interrupt the movement of PRSV by viruliferous aphids into Kahuwai. The goal of this strategy was to reduce initial infection rates and secondary virus spread, thus slowing the PRSV epidemic in the Kahuwai management area.
… the Kahuwai management area had very low PRSV incidence and represents the situation where a degree of isolation was possible, and roguing of infected plants was strictly followed. In the remaining areas of Puna, the disease incidence was much higher than Kahuwai. The likely reasons are that PRSV management was less intense and the more random planting of Rainbow was less effective in protecting nontransgenic plantings. HDOA, however, removed infected fields that had been abandoned by growers. This activity greatly reduced PRSV incidence and has served to keep the incidence of PRSV in nontransgenic papaya relatively low as compared with 1992-1998 when PRSV-resistant papaya were not available.
KEWL! GMO plants protecting the ‘organic’ plants! LOL!
But the foodies aint happy. They dont want ungodly GMOs mixing with their pure-bred stock, birthing mulatto papaya abominations. Sure their super awesome organic papayas would be dead by now if it werent for GMOs, but like, whatever. Details, details.
But that stupid bit of irony did prompt a Q in mah brain. Maybe a Hawaiian might be able to answer for me– why didnt you all cull every papaya plant 10 years ago (saving seeds), plant GMOs only for a few years to clear out the PRSV epidemic, and replant native papaya? Plant people have options not open to us human people– why didnt you kill everyone to kill the epidemic, and just start over?