London: Scientists have created pollen-free flowers that can last longer and could help allergy sufferers cut down the risk of catching hay fever.
The plants with more vibrantly-coloured 'super-geranium' flowers do not produce pollens that cause sneezing, sniffing and itchy eyes of hay fever
The flowers which are prettier than usual, however, still require to be watered, the 'Daily Mail' reported.
Geraniums have been cultivated in Europe since the 17th century and are one of the most popular garden and house plants around the world, with conventional breeding techniques used to create a range of different flower colours, shapes and scents.
By crossing the best plants, they have also been bred to be long-flowering and have resistance to disease and pests.
The introduction of completely new traits required genetic modification. The researchers used GM technology to introduce two new genes into the species.
One gene destroyed the anthers - the pollen-producing bulbs found in flower heads. The other boosted production of an anti-ageing hormone.
The resulting GM geraniums had smaller flowers and leaves than usual. But their flowers were striking in colour and the leaves lived around three times longer than usual.
The researchers, from the Institute of Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology in Valencia, said that stopping pollen production would help allergy sufferers.
It also makes it more difficult for the new or 'transgenes' to be spread by accident.
"The generation of long-life plants is good news for the gardener who wants a display of flowers for as long as possible," a spokesman for the team said.
"The lack of pollen is not only great news for hay fever sufferers but also prevents accidental release of transgenes into the environment," they said.
Allergy experts said that the technology might be more useful if applied to lilies.
The large amount of pollen made by lilies and the ease with which it is dispersed makes them one of the most sneeze-inducing cut flowers.
Around 15 million Britons suffer from hay fever with this year's pollen season, the longest for more than two decades.
First Published: Friday, August 31, 2012, 16:43