Many consumers today feel out of touch with how their food is produced and are disturbed by a lot of what they hear about it through their social networks or other sources of information. If it is necessary to assign fault for this phenomenon, I think we could blame Jethro Tull. Jethro Tull!? No, I don’t mean the 70s rock band led by flautist Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre, I mean the early 18th century agronomist and inventor named Jethro Tull (the two Jethros did; however, have similar hair styles).
Amy Harmon’s excellent article in the New York Times describes how the Florida orange juice industry may soon be wiped out because of a new bacterial disease spread by an introduced insect. There could be a technology fix for the problem using genetic engineering, but the question is whether the growers will get to apply that solution. The sort of crisis situation now facing the Florida orange industry is not at all unique in the history of farming. There have been many times when some new pest threatened the economic viability of a major crop. Sometimes the pest “wins” and a particular farming industry simply goes away. In the mid 1880s when Coffee Rust made it from Africa to the coffee plantations that supplied England from Java and Sri Lanka, the industry collapsed, and so the English had to switch to tea to get their caffeine.