“Spray-on” genetic modifications sound like a potential disaster waiting to happen, but perhaps we shouldn’t be too quick to judge. The recent news story highlighted below brings to light a new innovation from Monsanto that could revolutionize the cut flower industry.

The technology, described in a patent application filed in 2014, is based on RNA interference (RNAi) techniques, in which small RNA molecules are used to suppress the expression of specific genes. In this case, RNA molecules are provided to the plant topically and target a gene involved in ethylene production. Ethylene is a key plant hormone involved in natural ripening processes and is often called the “ageing hormone”. So, by blocking ethylene production it is possible to extend the life of cut flowers.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a controversial topic and there are many critics of the use and expansion of GM crops, despite the potential benefits. However, this new development does not rely on modification of the genome –  the change in gene expression is transient. Thus, it will be interesting to see how the public reacts to this development, particularly as it could have a positive environmental impact by significantly reducing the amount of waste in the flower industry.

Perhaps we’ll all have some GM roses in our houses next Valentine’s day…


“Monsanto is working on anti-aging technology for flowers using a genetic technology it can feed to plants through vase water. The St. Louis biotech company, known for its transgenic corn and soybeans, and for being the target of anti-GMO campaigners, disclosed in a patent application that it’s testing a new way of stopping roses, carnations, and petunias from wilting.”