Pairwise commercializes “first gene-edited food” in US with CRISPR-altered salad blend
18 May 2023 --- Pairwise’s line of mixed leafy greens will be the first consumer food in the US developed using the groundbreaking genome-editing (CRISPR) crossbreeding technology. The product is marketed as having double the nutritional value of traditional romaine lettuce.
Nonetheless, the most notable scientific advance is in removing part of the bitter taste found in some vegetables.
By making previously undesirable foods that are untasty and too bitter more edible, the technology is set to improve consumers’ diets and health.
Pairwise’s leafy greens are derived from nutritiously rich mustard greens and are part of the same family of vegetables as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale.
“The nutrition level did not change through the gene editing process. Mustard greens naturally contain Superfood level nutrition. However, they have a strong, horseradish-like flavor that most find unappetizing when eaten raw,” Megan Thomas, VP of marketing and communications at Pairwise, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“We used CRISPR to dial down the genes responsible for the off-putting flavors (genes coding for an enzyme called myrosinase),” she explains.
“We set out to solve an important problem – that most lettuce isn’t very nutritious, and other greens are too bitter or hard to eat. Using CRISPR, we’ve been able to improve new types of nutritious greens to make them more desirable for consumers, and we did it in a quarter of the time of traditional breeding methods,” adds Haven Baker, co-founder and chief business officer.
Next, the company plans to release edited seedless blackberries, raspberries and black raspberries.
“We’re optimistic about launching Conscious Berries within the next 2-3 years. We are also working on pitless cherries, which are further out in the pipeline,” Thomas unveils.
What is CRISPR?
CRISPR is a gene editing technique used to make changes to the DNA of a plant, bush or tree, to bring out desired nutritional characteristics or to dial down undesired elements.
This process allows scientists to tap into what traditional crossbreeding can do but in a much shorter time.
“CRISPR technology has the potential to help address several critical challenges facing produce farming, including climate change, pesticide use, pressures on the global supply chain, cost and accessibility, and more,” says Thomas.
“Although our gene-edited greens are not considered to be GMO (CRISPR is different from GMO), we are not pursuing a non-GMO claim at this time,” she reveals.
CRISPR is a New Genomic Technique (NGT), which allows products that use this technology to aspire to non-GMO labels. Furthermore, it might enable producers to circumvent GMO regulations. Some environmental organizations have raised the alarm about the potential of the technology weakening the traceability of foods.
Pairwise has partnered with Performance Food Group Company (PFG) to bring its leafy greens to market. PFG will offer the Purple Power Baby Greens Blend co-branded under its premium brand, Peak Fresh Produce.
“We are committed to bringing innovation to our customers and pleased to partner with Pairwise to help take Conscious Greens products to market,” says Bob Warnock, VP of Produce at PFG.
“If we are to reach the goal of doubling the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, offering consumers a wide diversity of fresh products is a must. It also demonstrates how innovative technology can deliver results for our changing climate,” he highlights.
Meanwhile, UK scientists are researching how to use CRISPR to unlock low acrylamide levels in flour and to make tomatoes more nutritious by boosting their vitamin D levels.
Researchers achieved reduced levels of asparagine (acrylamide’s precursor) in the edited by up to 50% lower when compared to the control Cadenza variety.
By Marc Cervera
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