Genetic modification of ornamentals is on the rise worldwide. Using this technique it is, for instance, possible to modify the colour of cut flowers (e.g. a blue rose) and to make ornamentals more resistant against drought, diseases or the use of herbicides. Before their admittance to the market, genetically modified plants have to be assessed for potential risks to human health and the environment. An inventory performed by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment ( RIVM) shows that genetically modified ornamentals without an official permit do not seem to be present on the Dutch market. The inventory was commissioned by the Netherlands Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT), which is responsible for supervising and enforcing government regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), including the monitoring of unauthorized genetically modified ornamentals.
The inventory provides a list of ornamentals for which genetic modifications have been achieved successfully in the laboratory. The report also lists experiments which have been performed since 2000, both within and outside the EU, to test whether new traits are visible in greenhouses or in the field. In addition, the report includes a list of genetically modified ornamentals which are currently authorized in the EU and outside the EU, including in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Japan. From these lists, genetically modified ornamentals were selected that could be imported into the Netherlands, either now or in the near future. These ‘candidates’ are carnations, roses, Petunia, the grass seed Agrostis stolonifera (creeping bentgrass) and Pelargonium (popularly known as geranium). Four factors were assessed to enable ILT to prioritize genetically modified ornamentals for monitoring purposes and enforcement of regulations. The most important factor was the potential risk for human health and the environment. This risk turned out to be low. Only the GM grass A. stolonifera that is resistant against the weedkiller glyphosate may present a risk to the environment as it may become invasive following application of glyphosate. However, glyphosate-resistant A. stolonifera has not yet been commercialized.