Violets are blue and roses can be too

Blue pigments known as delphinidins are not naturally found in certain flowers like roses, carnations, lilies and orchids. So scientists isolated the gene responsible for delphinidin production in the petunia and transferred it to the carnation for ornamental purposes. The result? A beautiful array of naturally produced bluish colors from mauve to violet. (Fake blue carnations have been available since the 1970s due to food color, not natural pigments.)

The first biotech blue carnations were commercialized in 1996, the same year as the first biotech commodity crops were planted. Australia was the first country to adopt them, followed by Japan, the United States, the EU and Russia.

The development of the blue carnation was the first step to creating a blue rose as carnation genes are much easier to work with than those of roses. Moreover, the petunia gene didn’t work in roses so another solution had to be found.

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