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Blue roses and longing for the impossible

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In what is perhaps one of the latest trends in genetic engineering, “blue” roses have become somewhat of a craze in recent years. Since they first went on sale in Japan (the country which oversaw the experiment leading to their creation), sales have increased in other countries. It has been remarked that the blue rose is alluring because of what it represents: attaining the impossible.

The colour is no doubt mysterious, standing out from the swarm of traditional reds and pinks. Japanese flowers are, after all, beautiful and anyone familiar with the landscape there can imagine them looking as picturesque as the cherry blossom the country is famous for.

Yet, one element of the blue rose cannot slip by unnoticed when discussing its “difference”. Its colour is not real at all.

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There goes the mystery, sadly.

Only the faint purple hue of the authentic flower comes close to aligning with the blueness of the genetically engineered one. The natural world does not produce blue roses. This is thought to be because the colour is affiliated with an alkaline state; not often found in areas of the world where plants and flowers grow.

Its creation has to involve manipulation of genetic coding. In the efforts of breeders to attain the impossible, a setback was encountered. Rose petals lack the enzyme which is needed to create blue pigment; therefore a gene was taken from a petunia and inserted into a rose.

This defines the process of making the present day “blue rose”.

Genetic engineering has produced more extreme concoctions recently such as “glow in the dark” roses and the so-called “rainbow rose seeds”, which sell on Amazon and are – officially – a scam.

Of course, there are much bigger problems in the world than artificial flowers.

But as beautiful as blue roses or luminous flowers might be, it might be worth wondering: which are real and which are not?

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Judith Brown

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