Thanks to Ken Kamiya for this commentary peice. In the middle of the 20th century, as Hawaiian papaya farmers started to
enjoy commercial success, the ringspot virus appeared almost out of nowhere to threaten our livelihood. For a while, we were able to contain its spread by destroying infected papaya trees. Yet this was a drastic remedy. One year, I had to cut down half
By the 1990s, however, it was almost pointless for Hawaiian farmers to raise papayas. The risk of crop failurewas too high. I stopped growing the fruit and so did most of my neighbors.
Meanwhile, scientists worked on the problem. Dennis Gonsalves, then of Cornell University, learned how to take a piece of the
ringspot virus and use it to “inoculate” trees, much as vaccines can improve immunity against diseases in people. In 1998, we started to sell GM papayas, which are just as healthy and delicious as the ones they replaced.
This simple innovation saved Hawaiian papayas. The ringspot virus is still out there, ready to wreak havoc–but it won’t infect any of the trees that descend from the innovation of Gonsalves. (Read More From Source)