Not Just in Our Fridge : Genetically Modified Orchids in our houses?

blue orchid

From Greenhouse Grower http://www.greenhousegrower.com/production/plant-culture/genetic-modification-produces-true-blue-orchid/

by Deniz Ozkardas, Psychology Major

It might seem that genetic engineering for Orchidacae family, popularly known as orchids is out of question.

However, breeding strategies, genetics and genetic engineering are very crucial for their commercial success.

Orchids are one of the species in which the breeding diversity occurs naturally. Relationship between orchid pollinator and flower, drifting and natural selection are one of the few that can explain such diversity.

Its reproductive strategies such as the release of millions of embryos to earth can be also accounted in why they became one of the most diverse species with estimation of 25.000> (Hsiao et al, 2011).

Yet their economic potential enforce breeders to reply needs of the market.

A selective method of breeding is used to preserve orchids genes. In order to acquire fragrant flowers or specific shapes (e.g harlequin orchids that are dotted), nurseries pick specific hybrids. Awarded orchids are cloned to ensure no mutations occur and such orchids are much more expensive since they are praised and regarded as rarities.

Since such breeding requires great time and effort, supermarkets often sell NOID breeds, which are an abbreviation for no identity. However, it must be noted that a more complex genetic engineering do exist in orchids rather than selective breeding.

Orchids varieties that have large flowers (> 4 in.), with less common, intense colors (e.g. red and orange) and a heavy substance, fragrance are classified as novelty (Bigleaforchids,2017). In their breeding, ploidy (def. number of sets of chromosomes in a cell) is detrimental in how the genes would show themselves.

For example, pod parent or pollen parent may determine the expression of dominant (visible) traits (Slippertalk, 2017). What this means is that breeders have to carefully assess genetic material and their expression. These techniques can be defined as advanced hybridizing and cloning technology.

Although these techniques are widely used today, the idea of genetic engineering in orchids is also currently investigated.

Dr. Masahiro Mii at Chiba University found that when flavonoid (def. plant compounds that include pigments in ranging color) 3’,5’-hydroxylase gene  was incorporated to phalaenopsis, it produced delphinidin which gives blue color.

Current research also demonstrates that fragrant species are conceptually possible. Since some desirable fragrances are very limited to certain species, this could mean a potential avenue for orchid growers in future (Chandler &Sanchez,2012).

In a probable future, GMO orchids will be in our homes as decorations.

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I am a Rising Sophomore at OSU and want to find out how plants and contemporary issues are intertwined.

References

BigLeafOrchids. (2017). Big Leaf Orchid forum • View topic – What Exactly is a Novelty Phalaenopsis…. [online] Available at: http://www.phalaenopsis.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=8979 [Accessed 30 Jul. 2017].

Chang, Y. and Wang, Y. (2017). Genetic Modification Produces True Blue Orchid | Greenhouse Grower. [online] Greenhouse Grower.  [Accessed 30 Jul. 2017].

Chandler, S., & Sanchez, C. (2012). Genetic modification; the development of transgenic ornamental plant varieties. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 10(8), 891-903.

Hsiao, Yu-Yun, Pan, Zhao-Jun, Hsu, Chia-Chi, Yang, Ya-Ping, Hsu, Yi-Chin, Chuang, Yu-Chen, . . . Chen, Hong-Hwa. (2011). Research on Orchid Biology and Biotechnology. Plant and Cell Physiology, 52(9), 1467-1486.

Merriam-webster.com. (2017). Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America’s most-trusted online dictionary. [online] Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com [Accessed 30 Jul. 2017].

Phalaenopsis.net. (2017). Big Leaf Orchid forum • View topic – Lovely novelty Phalaenopsis. [online] Available at: http://phalaenopsis.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=14968 [Accessed 30 Jul. 2017].

Slippertalk.com. (2017). Pollen versus Pod parent – Slippertalk Orchid Forum- The best slipper orchid forum for paph, phrag and other lady slipper orchid discussion!. [online] Available at: http://www.slippertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=17722 [Accessed 30 Jul. 2017].

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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