The technique would prevent the flowers from producing ethylene, the hormone responsible for ripening fruit and causing flowers such as carnations and roses to wilt and shed their petals.
Monsanto's patent application is for a technology that would create strands of a molecule called RNA which are added to water. When this water is taken up by the cut flower, the RNA interacts with a specific gene in the plant's DNA to suppress the creation of ethylene.
The patent application says extending the vase life of flowers "would provide significant value to the floral industry". As well as vase water, an RNA solution or powder could be sprayed on the cut flowers or even on plants prior to flowers being cut.
Currently, flowers can be treated with compounds such as silver thiosulfate or 1-MCP gas to delay the rotting process, but Monsanto argues that these methods have drawbacks, and its method would be "more environmentally friendly and easier to apply and control".
Ethylene-sensitive flowers that Monsanto suggests would be suitable for the technology include alstroemeria, anemones, baby's breath, calla lilies, daffodils, freesias, gladioli, hyacinths, hydrangeas, irises, lilies, orchids, peonies, roses, sweet peas and tulips.