Scientists Create “True Blue” Chrysanthemums via Genetic Engineering, Open Door for Limitless Possibilities


source– Roses are red, but science could someday turn them blue. That’s one of the possible future applications of a technique researchers have used to genetically engineer blue chrysanthemums for the first time.

Chyrsanthemums come in an array of colours, including pink, yellow and red. But all it took to engineer the truly blue hue — and not a violet or bluish colour — was tinkering with two genes, scientists report in a study published on 26 July in Science Advances. The team says that the approach could be applied to other commercially important flowers, including carnations and lilies.

“Consumers love novelty,” says Nick Albert, a plant biologist at the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research in Palmerston North, New Zealand. And “people actively seek out plants with blue flowers to fill their gardens”.

Plenty of flowers are bluish, but it’s rare to find true blue in nature, says Naonobu Noda, a plant researcher at the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization near Tsukuba, Japan, and lead study author. Scientists, including Noda, have tried to artificially produce blue blooms for years: efforts that have often produced violet or bluish hues in flowers such as roses and carnations. Part of the problem is that naturally blue blossoming plants aren’t closely related enough to commercially important flowers for traditional methods — including selective breeding — to work.

Most truly blue blossoms overexpress genes that trigger the production of pigments called delphinidin-based anthocyanins. The trick to getting blue flowers in species that aren’t naturally that colour is inserting the right combination of genes into their genomes. Noda came close in a 2013 study when he and his colleagues found that adding a gene from a naturally blue Canterbury bells flower (Campanula medium) into the DNA of chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum morifolium) produced a violet-hued bloom.

As everyone’s favorite Flower Expert, I knew I had to weigh in here. To be honest, I’m kind of conflicted. True blue flowers are rare. In fact, they hardly exist naturally. They’re all either mostly purple or really light blue, nothing purely blue. If you manage to get ahold of some truly blue blossoms you’ll be the cock of the walk in your neighborhood and be the source of some serious garden-envy. So creating them artificially completely saps the exclusivity. If they just started giving Ferraris away, what’s the point of driving one anymore? Just because Mrs. Smith down the street is jealous of the beautiful, azure paradise I’ve created in my backyard doesn’t mean she should be able to throw a tantrum and get some for herself. Not only that, but why waste this technology on chrysanthemums? I mean they’re alright, but they’re kind of amateur hour. If I see someone with genetically modified blue chrysanthemums, I’m probably gonna lose a lot of respect for that person. Have some pride in your ornamental plants. If you want some blue flowers, be a man and breed them yourself. People forget that carrots were originally purple. Now look at them. These darn Millennials don’t know the value of hard work and patience anymore.

On the other hand, I’m generally a fan of genetically modified things. They usually taste better, last longer, look better, etc. I like the arrogance it takes to say “you know what, I know that this plant/animal has been the same for hundreds of years after a millennia of evolution and survival, but I don’t like it this way. I’m going to undo all of that with one experiment.” This brings us one step closer to real life blue raspberries, too. I wouldn’t want to eat any because blue raspberry doesn’t taste anything like actual raspberries, but I would like knowing that they finally exist. It kind of opens the door to a lot of cool color combinations. Again, leave the flowers out of it, but how about something like a green lemon. Can’t imagine how that would look. Or some white broccoli, that’d be wild. Or, just spitballing here, an orange with some red inside. I don’t really know if the science is that advanced yet, but I’m kind of just making a wishlist, here.

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