The rose that won’t wilt
Scientists create a flower with petals that stay fresh for days
PUBLISHED: 08:30 GMT, 4 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:55 GMT, 4 June 2016
A US company has patented a product that will stop flowers wilting by altering their DNA.
Monsanto, an agricultural biotech firm, are using reverse genetic engineering to stop the natural destruction of cells that occurs once a plant is cut and extend their lifespan.
The company filed a patent earlier this year for the product, which muffles the plant’s DNA and stops the production of ethylene gas, which ripens fruits and rots petals.
Monsanto, an agricultural biotech firm, are using reverse genetic engineering to stop the natural destruction of cells that occurs once a plant is cut and extend their lifespan
The patent document talks specifically about roses, petunias and carnations, which could be an enormous boost for florists by dramatically reducing the significant waste int he industry.
It will also be welcome news for flower enthusiasts all over the world, who will see the blooms poking from vases on table tops and windowsills stay fresh and colourful for longer.
According to the patent filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, the product, called RNA, can be fed into flowers through the water in the vase.
It then gets into the plant’s DNA and strangles the EIN2 gene, which would otherwise trigger the production of ethylene.
It’s been developed by Monsanto, a company famous for its work to genetically engineer crops, which is controversial all over the world after a documentary highlighted pitfalls in the future
The patent reads: ‘Flowers of many species produce ethylene in a response to pollinatin amd this ethylene then serves as a signal to induce senescence and/or abcission (shedding) of the metabolically expensive petals once they’re no longer needed to attract pollinators.’
The product uses a process called RNA interference, which was discovered two decades ago but is only now transforming the way plants are grown.
USES FOR RNAi SO FAR
RNA interference is a natural process cells use to turn down, or surpress the activity of specific genes.
Today, research for the use of RNAi in agriculture spans a variety of areas; including traditional areas of plant protection from weeds and bugs to novel new approaches to increasing yields.
While research continues, uses so far in plants include the development of allergy-free peanuts and decaffeinated coffee beans.
Monsanto has used RNAi in the development of improved oils in soybeans and as a new way of protecting plants from pests that attack the roots of corn plants underground.
It was first noticed in petunias, when researchers tried to introduce a pigment producing gene that would intensify the plant deep purple colour.
It is a form of genetic modification, but the changes made to a plant’s DNA are temporary, so it avoids criticism directed at other products, which could lead to unexpected problems in the future.
Monsanto’s work in genetic modification has been incredibly controversial after documentary Food Inc highlighted the potential pitfalls it could create.
Last month, thousands of protesters marched all over the world – from Switzerland to Brazil – to demonstrate against its genetic engineering and the pesticides it makes.
Although they are used by commercial farmers to make their crops more profitable. RNAi is already used to make some weeds susceptible to herbicides and to kill parasites that harm honey bees.
But Professor David Baulcombe, head of plant sciences at the University of Cambridge, said that if it works, it is ‘quite an exciting innovation,’ reports Oliver Moody from The Times.
The company, Monsanto, said it was important to ongoing research on the applications of RNA, and while it has potential benefits for cut flowers, their business remains focused on crops.