Monsanto may be out to conquer a new area of the plant world: commercial flowers. A post at MIT Technology Review explains that the company has applied for a patent on a technique that could make it dramatically easier to sell and ship flowers—by preventing them from wilting. The general idea is to interfere with the flowers' ability to make the odorless gas ethylene, which plays a role in the blooming and ripening process. Monsanto scientists think they can manipulate this by feeding the plants genetic molecules, thus raising the possibility of creating flowers that "bloom on command, or do other tricks," in the words of MIT.
The implications are huge, given the huge global market for fresh flowers and the pricey logistics of getting them to market or into the hands of funeral homes, loved ones, etc. By some estimates, up to 90% of cut flowers currently sold in the US are imported, notes CNBC, with most coming from Colombia and Ecuador. If MIT's idea works—and consumers don't object to the RNA manipulation—it could reduce waste and "meet a real need in the flower industry,” says a plant researcher at the UK's Cardiff University. Until then, lifehacker has some ideas on how to make your fresh flowers last longer, including a 45-degree cut on the stems. (Read more Monsanto stories.)