New GMO Alert: Conscious Foods Makes CRISPR Produce for Unaware Consumers
Pairwise Plants was founded in 2017 by a cohort of five individuals, three of whom have connections with the Broad Institute, Harvard University, MIT, or all three. Key among them is Feng Zhang, who is credited with the development of CRISPR-cas9 as a gene editing tool.
Pairwise’s mission is to use “breakthrough genome editing technologies,” leveraging CRISPR to create “tastier, more nutritious, or more convenient products.” Toward that goal, in 2022, Pairwise launched Conscious Foods, which it describes as a “purpose-driven” food brand. The first product to be brought to market under the Conscious Foods brand is Conscious Greens, which the company describes as “nutrient-dense, leafy salad greens” made more nutritious through the use of CRISPR.
However, in its approval submittal to Health Canada, Pairwise reveals that its Conscious Greens “nutrient-dense salad greens” are not what many consumers would think of as salad greens but are instead actually mustard greens (Brassica juncea) that have been genetically modified using CRISPR not to be more nutritious but to be less bitter. Mustard greens generally have higher levels of some vitamins, iron, calcium, and fiber than does lettuce.
The company plans to launch Conscious Greens in both retail and food service later this year. The greens will be sold in packages that include more than one variety of genetically modified mustard greens. Recently, Pairwise expanded its commercial leadership team in anticipation of the launch.
The company is also working on seedless blackberries, raspberries, and pitless cherries, but no launch dates have been announced. It is unclear how these genetically modified crops will fare with consumers.
It should be noted that Pairwise does not consider its CRISPR crops to be GMOs on the basis that they are not transgenic (i.e., do not contain DNA from more than one species), thus making a distinction between genetic modification and gene editing. This distinction is not consistent with the definition of GMOs held by the Non-GMO Project, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, or the European Union.
The Non-GMO Project’s Standard defines all crops and products developed using biotechnology, including new gene-editing techniques, as GMOs. We share this information to further one of the Project’s primary goals of creating greater transparency in the supply chain, ensuring you have the information you need to make the best choices for you, your brand, and your family.
Please note that the information herein is for general informational purposes only and is based on the linked sources above.
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