Tired of mowing the lawn or watering the flowers . . . had enough of watching impatiens succumb to frost? Help, whether you want it or not, is on its way by means of genetically modified plants. There is strong resistance worldwide to genetically modified food crops, but if science has its way, GM plants may well gain acceptance by slipping into the garden via the back gate where they'll be welcomed by many gardeners. Could you handle a lawn that rarely needs mowing? How about plants that survive our winter and never need watering in summer? They'll all be an easy sell at the garden centre.
Gardeners have been striving for perfect plants for years, achieving their goals by breeding and hybridizing. Creating new varieties is old hat, but gene manipulation will be a giant leap into a world where rules and expectations have vanished. I suppose in one sense it will encourage more homeowners to take up gardening when all the hard work and chores have been removed, but will it still be gardening?
The benefits will be touted — pollen free plants that will ease life for hay fever sufferers, huge tomatoes, plants that bloom endlessly and never need deadheading, and even designer shrubs in any shade to match the siding on the house. Will we regret not fretting over black spot or panicking over cinch bugs? I doubt it. But there's no reason to believe it will end there.
Who will say no when predatory plants are on offer that chow down on mosquitoes, even hostas that digest slugs for a change? I don't imagine there's anyone who will refuse a plant that when chewed on renders rabbits sterile. This all may sound wonderful, or frightening, but where will the challenge be in gardening? What will be the point? There can hardly be any sense of accomplishment in nurturing plants to fruition when all the potential flaws and possible failures have been genetically removed. What will be the difference between a GM plant and an artificial one?
Surely you really don't need a rose without thorns that repels aphids, never gets black spot, and is customized to grow to the height of your very own nose so that you won't have to bend to sniff the fragrance. What's that — where can you buy one? Look around, I'm afraid the future is rushing to keep up.