In DepthBiotechnology Regulation

The strange case of the orange petunias

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Science  26 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6340, pp. 792
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6340.792

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Regulators in Europe and the United States are asking flower breeders to destroy vast numbers of petunias after a chance discovery by a Finnish plant biologist revealed that several varieties are genetically engineered (GE). Officials say the petunias pose no threat to human health or the environment—and likely were unknowingly sold for years—but it’s illegal to sell them without a permit. The varieties may be descendants of a 30-year-old biotechnology breakthrough that researchers in the field assumed were never commercialized. The petunia carnage highlights the growing complexity of regulating GE plants, which have a history of showing up where they aren’t allowed and can be hard to track.