Story at a glance:
- Pairwise, an agricultural biotechnology company, created Conscious Greens Purple Power Baby Greens Blend, the first CRISPR-edited food available to U.S. consumers.
- The company used CRISPR, or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat, to edit mustard greens’ DNA, removing a gene that gives them their pungent flavor.
- The greens are first being rolled out in restaurants in St. Louis, Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, before heading to U.S. grocery stores — beginning in the Pacific Northwest.
- In 2022, researchers with Boston Children’s Hospital revealed that using CRISPR in human cell lines increased the risk of large rearrangements of DNA, which could increase cancer risk.
- Because regulators don’t consider gene-edited foods to be genetically modified organisms (GMOs), they don’t have to be labeled.
Mustard greens are a nutrient-dense source of vitamins and minerals, but their bitter flavor makes them unpalatable to many. To remedy the problem, Tom Adams, cofounder and CEO of Pairwise, told Wired, “We basically created a new category of salad.”
The agricultural biotechnology company, founded in 2017, had raised $90 million by 2021, and $115 million total, “to bring new varieties of fruits and vegetables to market.”
Gene-edited mustard greens coming to U.S. stores
Pairwise scientists used the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, to edit mustard greens’ DNA, removing a gene that gives them their pungent flavor.
The greens are first being rolled out in restaurants and other locations in St. Louis, Springfield, Massachusetts and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, before heading to U.S. grocery stores — beginning in the Pacific Northwest.
“A mix of colorful Superfood leafy greens with a unique, fresh flavor and up to double the nutrition of romaine. Using CRISPR technologies to improve taste and nutrition in produce, Conscious Greens are field-grown Superfood greens that eat like lettuce, offering a versatile new option for chefs and salad lovers alike.”
The company has also built a glossy PR campaign to make its motives seem altruistic and necessary to improve Americans’ diets.
In a news release, Haven Baker, Pairwise co-founder, and chief business officer, stated:
“We’re proud to be bringing the first CRISPR food product to the U.S. We set out to solve an important problem — that most lettuce isn’t very nutritious, and other types of greens are too bitter or too 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. Launching Conscious Greens through this exciting partnership with PFG [Performance Food Group] is a major milestone in achieving our mission to build a healthier world through better fruits and vegetables.”