- 50,000 of the revolutionary light-emitting plants, called Firefly Petunia, on sale
- Their DNA is spliced with genes from a mushroom that glows naturally in the wild
Genetically engineered petunias that glow in the dark have gone on sale in the United States.
The revolutionary light-emitting plants, called Firefly Petunia, has flowers that look white in daytime, but give off light to glow green in the darkness..
The petunias glow because they have had their DNA spliced with genes from a mushroom that glows naturally.
Costing $29.00 (£22.00) the plants are currently only on sale in the US.
The revolutionary light-emitting plants, called Firefly Petunia, has flowers that look white in daytime, but give off light to glow green in the darkness.
The petunias glow because they have had their DNA spliced with genes from a mushroom that glows naturally
The firefly petunia glows gently green in the dark thanks to genes implanted in it taken from a bioluminescent mushroom, called Neonothopanus nambi which is found in Central and South America, Malaysia and Australia.
The firm behind the plant, Light Bio of Sun Valley, Idaho, has grown 50,000 of the plants for sale.
The glowing plants differ from another genetically modified organism on sale in the US market, the Glo Fish, which is fluorescent and only glows under ultraviolet light.
The firefly petunia will glow without special light bulbs to illuminate it.
Karen Sarkisyan, a synthetic biologist at the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences in London, one of the founders of Light Bio told Nature.com: ‘If you treat the plant really well, if it gets enough sunlight and it’s healthy, it will glow brighter,’ although it will not be bright enough to keep you awake at night he added.
The plant was approved by the US Department of Agriculture in September.
Costing $29.00 (£22.00) the plants are currently only on sale in the US
Light Bio said the type of petunia did not grow in the US, and is not considered an invasive species, so its chances of spreading in the wild should be minimal.
Another genetically engineered vegetable is the purple tomato, seeds of which went on sale in the US this year – and the first GM food product marketed to gardeners.
The purple tomato has genes from a snapdragon plant inserted into it to produce a fruit high in purple antioxidants, which are thought to offer health benefits to those who eat them.
Matt Appleby, gardening expert and editor of Horticulture Week said he expected GM houseplants such as the glowing petunia and the purple tomato would soon be on sale in the UK under new legislation.
Mr Appleby said: ‘It’s only a matter of time before we get more weird and wonderful, as well as useful and saleable garden plants, in the UK. Gardeners love novelty so bring it on.’
But Pat Thomas of anti-GM group Beyond GM said under new laws being drawn up, such plants could be sold in the UK – but would offer little benefit to humanity.
‘New planned legislation will mean that genetically engineered plants like this will soon become freely available, without labelling, and government is working at some speed to introduce this.
‘A key point here is that much of the ‘sell’ for genetically engineered plants is that they will bring meaningful and measurable public benefits which will help us fight climate change and feed a hungry world.
‘It is hard to see how glow in the dark petunias fall into this category. In reality studies show that, for the most part, the plants being commercialised using genetic technologies fall into what I would call the ‘fluffy’ category of crowd-pleasing, colour- and taste-changing plants that bring no meaningful benefits to people or planet and exist only to turn a quick short-term profit.’