London (April 13th, 2005)
– The World's first "Blue Roses" – a synonym for the
impossible - have been successfully developed in Japan using biotechnological
Roses have been grown for 5,000 years or more. It is said that the varieties developed to more than 25,000 species and a wide variety of colours exists including red, white, pink and yellow. For a long time, breeders have been trying to develop blue roses, which have long been a synonym for the impossible. In an effort to achieve this breeders have been crossing rose varieties grown all around the world. As a result, there are so-called 'blue' roses already on the market. However, blue roses, derived from the presence of blue pigment, have not yet come into being. It has been revealed that this is a result of the fact that in rose petals genes encoding the enzyme flavonoid 3'5'-hydroxylase, needed to produce the blue pigment (delphinidin) are not functional.
In 1990, the Japanese company Suntory, in cooperation with an Australian bio-venture company Calgene Pacific (now: Florigene Ltd.), started the joint development of biotechnology-driven "blue roses". They attempted to develop the coloured flowers by retrieving the genes necessary to create blue pigments from other plants such as petunia and then implanting them into roses. The world's first "blue carnations" were made in this way in 1995; in Japan they were named "Moondust" and they have been marketed since 1997.
Suntory has now succeeded in making blue pigment in roses by implanting the gene that leads to the synthesis of blue pigment from pansy. Unlike the roses created by using conventional breeding technologies, the GM flowers roses have almost 100% delphinidin in their petals, which has allowed these new and very different blue roses to become a reality. Although traditional roses have only red pigments, using the blue roses as a starting point, it is expected to lead to more variety in rose flower colour.
Florigene News (8 April, 2005). (http://www.florigene.com.au/news/news.php)