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Rose scent in poplar trees? Washington State University turns to genetic engineering

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SEATTLE — Sniff the air around Norman Lewis’ experimental poplars, and you won’t pick up the scent of roses.

But inside the saplings’ leaves and stems, cells are hard at work producing the chemical called 2-phenylethanol — which by any other name would smell as sweet.

Sweeter still is the fact that perfume and cosmetics companies will pay as much as $30 an ounce for the compound that gives roses their characteristic aroma. Because what Lewis and his colleagues at…

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