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Thread: The Quest for the Blue Rose

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    Post The Quest for the Blue Rose

    Global Garden

    This month we spoke to James Will about the elusive blue rose.

    The Quest for the Blue Rose.

    1. The quest for the blue rose has almost become a holy grail to rose breeders. Why?

    I think that initially that it was a scientifically exciting thing to do and something totally different so that it captured people's imaginations. It was also something that was apparently impossible to do by using conventional breeding techniques. Another incentive was the fact that there are very few true blue cut flowers and breeders were very interested in developing a long-term cut flower that was blue.

    2. Why does the blue rose remain so elusive?

    This is the result of one basic situation. Plants have various colour pathways that determine the way in which colour is specifically expressed in petals. While scientists can extract a gene from one plant where the colour expression in the petals is blue, when inserted into roses, this colour expression changes to pink. The reason for this is the pH of the cells. For example if you insert a blue gene from petunias which have a cell pH which is more acidic than roses into the rose DNA, it forms a pink pigment. If we try to change the genes that determine cell pH, then we risk changing a whole range of other cell functions as well. Changing the pH so that the gene is expressed as blue petals may change other characteristics, and these may alter the plant significantly in a range of ways. It may be blue, but it may not be a rose as we know it.

    3. What are the rewards for those who first successfully bring a true blue rose on to the market?

    In the past five years there has been a significant change in the industry's view of this. Five years ago, it was estimated that a blue rose would be able to capture 5% of the international cut flower market - a prize worth many millions of dollars annually. However in recent years the production of cut flowers has moved to Third World countries in South America and Africa (Kenya for example), due to the lower costs of production and labour, as well as to countries such as Israel.

    South America and African producers now account for something like 70% of cut flower rose production. The problem for rose breeders is that these countries tend not to be very tidy about royalty payments. This means that the breeders who develop the blue rose may have difficulty in recouping their costs and making the expected profits from their research because of the difficulty in collecting royalty payments from the growers. This problem has become so significant that many North American cut-flower breeders have made the decision not to breed any more new roses at all. For this reason it is unclear just what the rewards for developing the blue rose are any more.

    The way out seems to be to handle the rose production in the way that some large Dutch consortiums do. They maintain control of the process from the rose breeder, to the plantations, to the marketing of the cut flowers world-wide. In this way the benefits of the research are kept within the organisation and the products are not sold in the open market, but this raises all sorts of questions regarding free trade.

    The quest for the blue rose is not without its challenges.

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    Roses are red, and now come in blue

    Staff report

    Scientists' efforts to create the world's first blue rose have, well, come up roses.


    A model shows off the world's first blue roses
    -- long thought impossible to create -- during
    a media preview in Tokyo.


    Distiller and beverage manufacturer Suntory Ltd. said Wednesday it has developed the world's first blue roses with Australian firm Florigene Ltd.

    Suntory officials said researchers extracted the gene that produces blue pigment in pansies and activated it inside the roses.

    There are already "bluish" roses on the market, but these flowers were created through crossbreeding and cannot be called true blue, according to Suntory. The gene of the enzyme that produces the blue pigment, delphinidin, is not found in rose petals to begin with.

    Thanks to biotechnology, the petals of Suntory's blue roses contain nearly 100 percent of the blue pigment, it said.

    Suntory and Florigene, which is 98.5 percent Suntory-owned, bred a blue carnation using the same basic technology in 1995.

    The carnations were marketed in Japan, North America and Australia under the brand Moondust, according to the firm.

    The Japan Times: July 1, 2004

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    Post Re: The Quest for the Blue Rose

    Now that makes sense,Suntory wants to make the worlds first brue rose,Suntory is Japan's largest brewery.

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