The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced [May 16] that U.S. flower distributors have begun to destroy countless petunia plants after federal scientists confirmed that they were genetically engineered (GE) to produce vivid orange, red, and purple blooms. The agency says the flowers pose no risk to the environment or to human health, but GE organisms need special permits to be sold in the United States.
Distributors apparently imported or bred the flowers without realizing the plants had been GE.
Testing continues, but USDA says it has already confirmed nine unwelcome varieties. They are:
- African Sunset (the petunia initially identified as GE)
- Trilogy Mango
- Trilogy Deep Purple
- Trilogy Red
- Trilogy ’76 Mix-Liberty Mix
- Fortunia Early Orange
- Hells Bells Improved
- Petunia Salmon Ray
- Sweetunia Orange Flash
The agency says that “consumers who may have purchased GE petunias need take no action,” and that petunias also “have no sexually compatible wild relatives in the United States, are not plant pests and are not listed as noxious weeds.” The flowers originally came from Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, South America, and Australia.
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