Monday, September 7, 2009

Blue Rose: The Impossible

Roses are loved by everyone. It signifies love. But to be precise each colour brings a different meaning and feelings. Red is said to mean love and romance; pink for grace and elegance; yellow for warmth and happiness; white for purity and innocence; orange for desire and enthusiasm; and lavender for enchantment.

So what about blue? Since blue roses do not occur naturally and it was almost impossible to inject a blue gene into a flower, it was synonym to impossible. For a long time breeders have been trying to develop blue rose by crossing rose varieties around the world with no success. So, I would think the most appropriate meaning for blue rose would be ‘impossible and unattainable’.

But thanks to Suntory Limited and Florigene, blue rose was finally developed through genetic engineering. Suntory is based on Osaka and owns 98.5% of Florigene which is based in Melbourne. Just this year the Australia’s Gene Technology Regulator has granted a licence to Florigene for the commercial release of this rose.

It was a challenge to develop blue rose as blue gene is a rarity in the flora kingdom. The enzymes responsible for the blue pigment in the rose are flavonoid 3’5’-hydroxylase from Viola tricolor and anthocyanin 5-acyltransferase from Torenia hybrida. Viola tricolor is a common European wild flower, while Torenia bybrida is commonly known as wishbone flower. These two enzymes give rise to the blue pigment in the flower petals called delphinidin.

Although the rose is not of navy blue colour but is blue enough to be called blue rose. Suntory is currently conducting more research to make blue roses “bluer”. This also serves as a starting point to create blue pigment in various other flowers as well as more varieties in rose colour.

The flower industry is a blooming industry. In the 1950s, the global flower trade was less than US$3 billion and had grown to US$100 billion in 1992. Holland is the number producer of flowers but the emergence of new producers is now transforming Holland from a producer to a trader. Colombia is the second largest exporter of flowers in the world and others are Ecuador, Ethiopia, Kenya and India.

Malaysia, with her varieties of orchids can certainly set her eye in capturing a small share in the floriculture business. Research has been going on in enhancing orchid colours and lengthening shelf life. Hope to see some commercialization in this area which will create a good job market and contribute towards our GDP.

By Mahaletchumy Arujanan

1 comment:

Autumn Belle said...

I stumble upon your blog while searching for info abou the blue rose. I have seen the blue rose during Floria 2011. The exhibitor representative assured me that it was a real blue rose and not a dyed one as I first thought. I have photographed them and posted in my blog, the link:

1) It looked different from your picture here. How do you differentiate a real blue rose from a dyed blue rose?

2) I would like to seek your permission to insert your link in my blog post.