Genetically modified orange petunias banned in Europa

Petunia Potunia Plus Papaya - photo: Dümmen Orange

Petunia Potunia Plus Papaya – photo: Dümmen Orange

Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has decided to remove from sale seeds and planting stock of petunias characterised by the orange colour of the flowers which has been produced by means of genetic engineering. Genetically modified (GM) varieties of petunia are not authorised for cultivation in the European Union (EU). As a result of this, the petunia plants and the seed lot are destroyed and any plants delivered for further growing on will be recalled from production. At the same time Evira informs in a press release that GM petunias do not cause any risk to people or the environment
In Evira’s analyses, one lot of petunia seeds from African Sunset as well as eight other petunia varieties that had already been planted were found to be genetically modified. These are Pegasus Orange Morn, Pegasus Orange, Pegasus Table Orange, Potunia Plus Papay, Go!Tunia Orange, Bonnie Orange, Sanguna Patio Salmon and Sanguna Salmon.
Ban hits many breeders
African Sunset is an orange petunia from Takii and can’t be found anymore at the site of this breeder. It was announced a 2014 AAS Bedding Plant Winner. All-America Selections memorizes that African Sunset wowed the judges with an attractive, ‘designer color’ in shades of orange flowers that proved itself against other similarly colored petunias currently available. Pegasus refers to a petunia series from Volmary. Also Pegasus Orange Morn, Pegasus Orange and Pegasus Table Orange can’t be found anymore on the site of the company. The Potunia series is brought onto the market by Dümmen Orange. Currently Potunia Plus Papay is not listed in the digital catalogue of this breeder. Go!Tunia is the name of a petunia series from Florensis. Bonnie Orange is from the petunia Bonnie series by selecta one, although the current series does not include a variety named Orange. Sanguna Patio Salmon and Sanguna Salmon derive from Syngenta Flowers.
The cuttings and seeds of the GM petunias have been imported to Finland from Germany and Netherlands. Investigations are ongoing in EU member states to establish if GM petunia plants have been placed more widely on the market.
Flowers are not naturally orange
In the press release Evira concludes that Petunia is an ornamental plant rich in blossoms, common in the summer, but that its flowers are not naturally orange. According to the Finnish Food Safety Authority the new colour of the flower has been produced through genetic engineering. The authority memorizes that a specific authorisation procedure is required before genetically modified plants are allowed to be cultivated and marketed in the EU. “No application has been submitted for authorisation of genetically modified petunias in the EU and they have not been authorised to be imported, cultivated or marketed in any of the member states.”
Only one genetically modified maize variety is authorised for cultivation in the EU. Some GM blue carnation varieties have been authorised for use as a cut flower only in the EU, but may not be cultivated in the EU countries. Genetically modified maize, soy and rape with EU authorisation may be imported into the EU for use in feed and food.
‘No risk to people or the environment’
Evira notes also that these orange petunias are incapable of spreading into the wild in Finland. “They are annuals which means that petunia shoots cannot withstand frost. Petunia seeds are not winter-hardy either. The authority says repeatedly that orange petunias do not cause any risk to people or the environment.
As a response to the events in Finland, also the German horticultural umbrella association Zentralverband Gartenbau (ZVG) emphasizes in a press release that these organge petunia’s are no danger to people or the environment. ZVG refers to the regulations laid down in the Euopean Genetic Engineering Act, of which there is no deviation. The association advises its members to discontinue the sale of orange petunias until the authorities’ investigation results are available. ZVG also calls for absolute transparency and cooperation with the authorities to minimize the damage.
Talk of the town
The leading Dutch trade magazine Vakblad voor de Bloemisterij reports last week about a meeting of the international organization for the ornamental plant industry Fleuroselect. Talk-of-the-town at that meeting was the question where the organge colour came from. According to Editor Peter van Leth there was no discussion about the conclusions of the Finnish Food Safety Authority. “This colour can only be obtained through genetic modification, which is prohibited in Europe.” Van Leth also notes that only experts agree that the colour is not true orange.
Auctions terminate sales
Auctions like Veiling Rhein-Maas (Germany) and Plantion (Netherlands) already announced on their website that with immediate effect all sales of these orange petunias are terminated. Veiling Rhein-Maas and Plantion even almost doubled the number of banned orange petunias, in comparison with the Evira-list. Veiling Rhein-Maas is a joint venture of Landgard and Royal FloraHolland and is with the official ban earlier than its Dutch parent Royal FloraHolland.