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Europe: 'Orange petunia genetically modified for sure'

How can a variety, which is not allowed to be produced or sold, nevertheless be produced and sold? Yet this seems to be the case with a few orange petunia varieties in Europe. Despite its relative insignificance in numbers, they are available at several breeders and growers.

Last week, the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira announced to prohibit any further sale of the concerning varieties in Finland. In Evira's analyses, one lot of petunia seeds (African Sunset) as well as eight petunia varieties that had already been planted were found to be genetically modified. Selling GM plants within the European member states is not allowed.

Photo: Twitter@Evira

Not possible
What's happening? "I have but one explanation", says Maarten Leune of Royalty Administration International. "Assuming everyone acts in good faith, and with an eye to the breeder's core business, one has to conclude that the orange color has always been present in the flower's genome, until someone discovered it."

"Also, any sort of fraud would be very unlikely, for the benefits would never outweigh the negative press one would risk receiving."

However, according to a researcher of Evira, the orange color of the flowers has definitely been generated by means of genetic engineering. "Petunia flowers cannot be orange by nature. In the plants we found 'foreign' material: genes that do not occur naturally in the plant's DNA. We believe the orange color probably comes from a maize gene, a gene more often used to get a tone of orange. Whether it definitely is the maize gen or something else, remains to be proven. However, evidence for GM is irrefutable."

Interesting to notice is the fact that the non-existence of orange in petunia has been proven many years ago already. "Many studies have been conducted on the flower- and plant genome, some of them dating back to the 80's and 90's. Here in Helsinki, at the agricultural University in Helsinki, we have several people specialized in the matter ourselves. Ironically, last summer the city was filled with orange petunias. That is what set things in motion."

Stop in sales
Several European auctions now decided to stop selling the orange petunias. Yesterday, German auction Veiling Rhein-Maas, in agreement with Landgard and the German authorities, announced to forbid any further sales of these varieties through their facilities. Today, Plantion announced to do the same. Royal FloraHolland will continue to facilitate sales as long as orders to do otherwise are not given.

Publication date: 5/5/2017
Author: Geert Peeters



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