Biotech Updates

GM Blue Roses to Hit Japanese Shelves Next Month

October 23, 2009

Japan's Suntory Ltd announced that it will start selling the world's first blue rose next month. The product of more than two decades of research, the blue rose will be on sale for 2,000-3,000 yen (about USD 22-33) per stem.

Growers have been breeding roses for thousands of years, creating different varieties that produce flowers of different sizes and colors. But because roses naturally lack blue pigmentation, elusive blue roses became synonymous with the impossible. Horticulturists have long referred to the blue rose as the holy grail of the plant breeding world. During the Victorian times, blue roses signified the attempt to attain the impossible. Even Rudyard Kipling made a poem about the impossible quest for blue roses.

With the Australian company Florigene, Suntory made the impossible possible by expressing the flavonoid 3'5'-hydroxylase and anthocyanin 5-acyltransferase genes from pansies and petunias in roses. The genes encode enzymes that play important roles in the synthesis of delphinidin, the elusive blue pigment.

Suntory in a press release said that the new variety, named Applause, is "recommended as a luxurious gift for special occasions such as wedding anniversaries and birthdays."