Carnation, a staple in the world’s cut flower supply, has been cultivated for nearly 2000 years (Besemer, 1980; Holley and Baker, 1963; Jawaharlal et al., 2003). Carnation production for the cut flower market has moved from traditional consumer markets such as the United States, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands to flower-exporting nations such as Colombia, Israel, Kenya, Spain and the Republic of China (Besemer, 1980; Nau, 2011). In 2011, standard carnations were produced in 15 states accounting for $233,000 wholesale revenue in the cut flower sector of the horticulture industry [U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2012a]. Carnations are available in a wide variety of colors derived from classical breeding techniques ranging from white, yellow and green to multiple shades of red, pink, and salmon (Besemer, 1980; Holley and Baker, 1963). Traditional breeding efforts are limited by the absence of key pigment biosynthesis genes in a particular genetic pathway (Chandler, 2007; Holley and Baker, 1963) inhibiting production of certain colors in many different flower species. For colors not commercially available, florists and producers use methods like dip dying, spraying or vascular uptake to obtain desired hues like blue and purple (Besemer, 1980; Hunter, 2000). However, with the advent of genetic modification techniques, breeders have been able to implement disease and insect resistance of commodity crops (Uzogara, 2000). In the case of ornamentals, there are research efforts underway to modify flower color and scent while incorporating resistance for abiotic stress, diseases and pests, and extending vase life (Chandler, 2012). Flower color modification dominates GMO research in ornamental crops (Auer, 2008; Clark et al., 2004; Holton et al., 1993). A key objective of breeders for floricultural crops is the creation of new flower colors, either to complete the range in a particular crop or replace an existing cultivar with a better performing genotype of the same color (Chandler, 2007).
In 1993, the gene encoding flavonoid 3′5′-hydroxylase was isolated (Holton et al., 1993), providing the tool to allow development of the color-modified carnation and a rose now on the market (Chandler, 2012). The first transgenic violet-colored carnation expressing the F3′5′H gene was originally marketed in Australia in 1996, followed by Japan, the United States, and Europe thereafter (Kikuchi et al., 2008). This carnation, ‘Florigene Moondust™’, was introduced by Florigene (Melbourne, Australia). The only GMO carnation products to be sold commercially thus far are this cultivar and eight additional newer ones in the Moon™ series (‘Moondust™’, ‘Moonvista™’, ‘Moonlite™’, ‘Moonshade™’, ‘Moonaqua™’, ‘Moonique™’, ‘Moonpearl™’, ‘Moonvelvet™’, and ‘Moonberry™’) (Chandler, 2007), possessing the F3′5′H gene expressing violet hues. These nine cultivars include the first introduced. The successful commercialization of genetically modified floricultural products relies on both the marketplace perception of the value of the product and the specific complexities surrounding the current public debate on the pros and cons of gene technology (Chandler, 2007). GMO carnation’s introduction in the marketplace was not a widely known fact, despite marketing by Florigene, resulting in silent response by florists and wholesale distributors as they were slowly made aware of the new technologies in flower color modification. The Florigene Moon™ carnation series are GMO products; this is now more common knowledge but still not a central part of marketing (Chandler, 2007).
Regulation and labeling of GMOs has been a topic of debate in the United States for many years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has provided guidance to the labeling of GMO and non-GMO food products (Albert, 2009) but little regulation has been implemented for GMOs such as the Moon™ series carnations. The only noticeable difference between GMO and standard carnations has been the price differential as GMO carnations began to infiltrate the market (Table 1). Price differentials may not have a direct effect on the consumer but may be more noticeable to the retail or wholesale florist. Currently, the largest impediment to adoption of at least some GMO horticultural products is the lack of market acceptance (Clark et al., 2004). Therefore, how should future florists handle the case of supplying and marketing genetically modified carnation in the retail setting?
Wholesale prices and price differentials between nongenetically modified organism (non-GMO) and GMO standard carnation for 2005, 2007, and 2009, three of the sample years in which this experiment was conducted. Price data were collected from flowers sold at Koehler & Dramm Wholesale Florists (Minneapolis, MN).
The concerns of GMO crops for future floral designers were addressed when n = 121 students enrolled in HORT 1013, Floral Design, at the University of Minnesota over 5 years (2005–07, 2009, 2011), were given the opportunity to design with commercially available standard and miniature Moon™ series carnation in the laboratory. The objective of allowing these future floral designers to work with transgenic flowers was to determine the next generation of floral designers perceptions of such GMO products. Through designing, composition of marketing paragraphs and development of retail floral shop policies, students determined whether they felt it was acceptable to offer GMO flowers and how to approach informing (or not informing) their customers of the new introductions. This study allowed for insight into the future of, not only carnations, but also other GMO cut flowers and ornamentals which may be introduced to the market.
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