May 15, 2017
**updated — USDA Examines Issue with Petunia Genetics

In late April, Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira announced it had “decided to remove from sale seeds and the planting stock of the ornamental plant petunia characterized by the orange color of the flowers which has been produced by means of genetic engineering.”

Genetically modified varieties of petunia are not authorized for cultivation in the European Union.

Now comes word that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investigating the impact in the United States.

Last week, the agency announced it was in the process of conducting genetic tests on some of the implicated varieties. “These tests will confirm whether [the specific] petunia varieties are genetically engineered,” the USDA said in a statement.

The Plant Protection Act gives the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) the authority to regulate genetically engineered organisms that may present a plant health risk.

You can read the USDA’s notice with the “petunia varieties that tests have confirmed to be genetically engineered so far” by clicking here.

It is important to note that the orange petunias do not cause any risk to people or the environment because they are annuals that die each year and don’t cross breed into native plants.

Breeders and brokers have been working together to address this issue.

“This is a situation that our industry has never dealt with before. It is affecting many different breeders’ petunia lines and was something no one had any idea of since GMO ornamentals aren’t allowed in cultivation,” said Chris Berg, a marketing consultant for several breeding companies. “The breeding community along with the broker community, has really bonded together very quickly to figure out what is happening and to cooperate with the USDA quickly and efficiently.”

Berg adds, “I personally find that the USDA is being very helpful to our industry right now and is giving us very clear guidelines and processes to make sure that we will find a long-term solution.”

He said it could be a challenge in the near future “for all levels in our industry from the breeder to the retailer, but the calls we had last week should lead to an eventually positive outcome.”

This story is continuing to develop. Check back for more details as they become available.


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