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Another GMO ‘vanity product:’ Bayer to sell gene-edited salad greens in Stores



Another GMO ‘vanity product:’ Bayer to sell gene-edited salad greens in Stores
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Biotech giant Bayer last week signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Pairwise, a genetic-based food startup, to develop and market its CRISPR-edited mustard greens, modified to be less bitter. Critics say the products haven’t been evaluated for health or environmental risks and could contain toxins or allergens.

Pairwise was the first company to bring produce created with the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR to the U.S. market when last year it started selling its mustard greens in some restaurants, hotels and retirement centers in a few U.S. cities.

The mustard greens are engineered to be less bitter than traditional mustard greens so they can be eaten raw in a salad, the company said. Bayer plans to amp up distribution, selling the greens in U.S. grocery stores this year.

CRISPR-edited produce is new and not commonly available, although Bayer said it hopes to change that. Bayer’s agreement with Pairwise isn’t limited to the mustard-turned-salad greens.

“The latest deal creates value beyond just selling a product, as it also comes with rights to use the knowledge, intellectual property, and technology going forward,” JD Rossouw, head of Vegetables Research & Development at Bayer said in a statement.

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As part of Bayer’s “open innovation approach,” the agreement gives the company the rights to develop and commercialize 10 varieties of Pairwise-edited greens and to develop new varieties using the company’s proprietary Fulcrum Platform.

Pairwise touts the platform’s ability to make “17 precise edits in a single plant,” as proof of its success.

For its mustard greens, the startup removed several copies of a gene responsible for the bitter flavor. “We think people will really like the taste,” Bayer’s Anne Williams told Wired.

She also said Bayer is in conversation with farms and salad companies about how to grow and package the greens.

But Claire Robinson, managing editor of GMWatch, told The Defender that Bayer’s gene-edited mustard greens have not been examined for health or environmental risks.

“And why anyone would want to genetically modify mustard greens to make them less, well, mustardy, is a complete mystery to me. The whole point of eating mustard greens is their pungent and bitter taste, and the compounds that make them pungent and bitter also happen to provide the health benefits. People who want their mustard greens to taste like lettuce can eat lettuce.


“In my view, this is yet another example of a ‘solution’ (GM) looking for a pretend ‘problem.’ It’s yet another vanity product of the GMO industry.”

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The first CRISPR-edited produce, a tomato, was developed by Tokyo-based startup Sanatch Seed and debuted in Japan in 2021. The tomatoes are engineered to increase gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, a neurotransmitter shown to decrease stress.

As with Bayer’s salad greens, the gene-edited tomato also was introduced to the market despite no studies demonstrating that it has the intended health effects or is even safe.

Sanatech’s president Shimpei Takeshita reported last week that the company is planning to bring its gene-edited tomato to the Philippines and the U.S., according to Wired.

Bayer also reported last week that it is working with South Korean biotech company G+FLAS to develop genome-edited tomatoes nutritionally enhanced with vitamin D as part of its mission to achieve “Health for All, Hunger for None.”

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) also called genetically engineered (GE) foods have been pushed by food giants like Monsanto — purchased by Bayer in 2018 — as a solution for all types of challenges in agriculture, including promises to “feed the world.”

Proponents say GE foods increase yields, reduce pesticide use and offer more nutritious foods with longer shelf lives. However, studies show GMO crops have performed no better than non-GMO crops and have sometimes introduced new risks into food and exacerbated existing problems.

GMO crops also have faced widespread rejection by consumers, concerned with the health and environmental impacts of the foods, despite efforts by the powerful and well-funded pro-GMO lobby to undermine those concerns.

Wired claimed that gene-edited plants are different. “The mustard greens and high GABA tomato aren’t exactly genetically modified organisms,” because rather than introducing foreign DNA, gene editing involves modifying the DNA of the organism itself.

Robinson said the real difference between older-style transgenic GM techniques and gene editing is that in older-style GM, the insertion of the GM gene(s) into the genome of the host organism is random — whereas gene editing begins with the creation of a break across the double strands of the DNA at a particular targeted location in the genome.

“The creation of a double-strand DNA break triggers DNA repair mechanisms which, depending on the gene editing experiment setup, can lead to genetic material being added, removed or altered at this location,” she said.

“These mutations could result in altered gene function and biochemistry of the plant, which could include the production of novel toxins and allergens and unpredictable effects on the environment and farming,” Robinson said.


Under the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly oversee agricultural products produced with biotechnology.

Although GMO foods were first introduced in the U.S. in 1994, it wasn’t until 2022 that the USDA began requiring labels for food with GMO ingredients — although the controversial legislation allows producers to use the word “bioengineered” instead of genetically modified.

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