Monsanto Makes The World’s First Genetic Modification Spray to Stop Flowers From Aging

The biotech company from St. Louis furthers applications of their RNA interference developments.

6. 1. 16 by Colin Aboy
Illustration by Morgan Elliott
Image by Illustration by Morgan Elliott

It goes without saying that, at some point in life, you’ll be giving or receiving a fresh bouquet of flowers (unless you lead a very unfortunate life). While it all seems sweet, some critics see this flower industry as a decidedly negative thing. This is because of its unseen environmental costs, especially considering the small amount of time flowers stay alive after they are cut.

But what if that bouquet of roses didn’t wilt in a few days? The St. Louis agricultural biotech company Monsanto might just have the exact solution for the matter.

In a patent application, the company is working on a method of delaying senescence (the deterioration the comes with age) in cut flowers such as roses, carnations, and petunias. Though Monsanto is well known for creating GMO seeds and plants, this method that the company is working on is more temporary…yes, they are working on temporary genetic modification.

Biotech company Monsanto is working on preventing flowers from wilting. Credit: Thinkstock Images

This is built upon the company’s on-going attempts to develop a kind of genetic modification that can be sprayed or fed through roots. The program is called BioDirect, and it makes use of genetic molecules called RNA to interfere with certain genes within the plants to create a desired effect without it being permanent.

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The key to the flowers’ taste of immortality? Preventing their production of ethylene, “the aging hormone” of plants that is responsible for their ripening and also their rotting. In the patent, cut flowers were placed in a vase with water doped with the designed RNA, and Monsanto claims that they had some success with these tests.

A spokesperson from the company stated that their tests are “early discovery work” in their use of RNA and its applications in agriculture (such as sprays that can kill bug pests).

Hilary Rogers at the Cardiff University says that this technology, assuming it works, will become a necessity in the industry, addressing the main problem the flower is a “very perishable crop.”


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