Glowing Plant Producer Funded by Kickstarter

Lab Report

By: Ann Northrup

Ann Northrup spent her undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in microbiology….

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The prospect of Avatar-like glowing plants is appealing to many folks. So much so that researchers at a start-up company in San Francisco working on the project with a shoestring budget were able to raise around a half-million dollars through online fundraising. Early donors to the campaign will be given seeds of a small mustard relative, promised to glow faintly when grown in any ordinary flower pot. Although the technology to insert the bioluminescence gene from a firefly into a plant has been available since the 1980s, equipment and material costs were prohibitive until recently. The co-founders stated that the main goal of the project was to inspire innovation. Plans are in the works to develop a glowing rose by 2015. Many scientists are not terribly concerned about the environmental risks of this particular plant introduction, but are concerned about the precedent set by this case with it’s possible escape from government regulation due to a technicality in US laws.

Nature 498, 15–16 (06 June 2013)