You could have had a V8, but unless science safely comes to the rescue of the orange tree, that might be your only choice.

Orange groves in Florida, California and other countries are under siege by the bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, which is carried from tree to tree and grove to grove by insects. The bacteria destroys the phoelm, or inner bark of the tree that acts as its circulatory system, blocking the flow of nutrients. Infected trees produce stunted, bitter fruit that doesn't ripen. All of Florida's orange-producing counties are affected. According to researchers at the University of Florida, the infestation has had a negative impact of nearly $5 billion on the industry. This year's crop projection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is about 47 percent of the 2004 harvest. The bacteria is spreading in California.

The infestation is a particular opportunity to demonstrate the value of genetically engineered food, which critics deride as "Frankenfood."

Almost all food consumed today is the result of some genetic modification over time, usually through cross-breeding. But the problem with citrus greening is that there is no known natural resistance to the bacteria, which has devastated orange groves in Asia, Africa and South America. There is nothing with which to cross-breed orange trees to produce the desired resistance.

The current answer is the use of pesticides that are absorbed by the trees through treated soil. But ultimately, the long-term answer is the development of trees engineered to resist the bacteria - which can only result from genetic modification.

Genetic engineering of crops holds promise for drought and disease resistance and for higher yields to fight hunger and nutritional deficits around the world. Its use should be regulated based on very detailed testing.