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Pairwise hosted a webinar to discuss the future of gene-editing in agriculture. 

Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice

In May, the first gene-edited produce hit the market in the U.S., launching a new era for the produce industry. Pairwise, a food start-up company with an emphasis on gene-edited produce, developed Conscious Greens with CRISPR technology as its inaugural product three years after receiving USDA approval.  

According to Haven Baker, chief business officer at Pairwise, the future of produce will begin to take an early form as a result of the Conscious Greens launch.  

“The indication is this is the first of many, many products being developed with CRISPR in the coming decade,” Baker said. 

A panel of experts hosted a Zoom webinar on June 13 to discuss the future of gene-edited produce as well as interactions with retailers, consumers and producers. Dave Puglia, president and chief executive officer of the Western Growers Association, explained that both he and the growers he has encountered are optimistic about the use of CRISPR technology, citing the current labor shortage as a motivating factor for incorporating technology in the agriculture industry. 

As automation becomes increasingly pervasive in agricultural operations, Puglia explained that altering produce to last longer and withstand harsher conditions is necessary. 

“I think growers on my board view this technology as extremely promising for all the obvious reasons,” Puglia said. “If you think about automation of fresh produce items for example, gene editing has the potential to better enable a fruit or vegetable to withstand a little bit rougher treatment in an automated harvest scenario.” 

Despite an optimistic outlook on CRISPR and genetic modification, Puglia explained there is an element of trepidation about how new technology is introduced and the effect it may have on retailers. Puglia emphasized the importance of transparency in the growing process in order to gain both retailer and consumer trust as more products come out.  

According to Baker, the mission of Pairwise is to maximize the consumption of fruit and vegetables. Genetic enhancements through CRISPR technology includes modifying produce to be increasingly disease free and drought resistant. He explained that the agricultural market can expect to see more genetically altered produce in the coming years.  

“I think there will be five or six products on the market, over the next three or four years and that will enable a whole bunch of innovation—there will be a whole slew of products towards the end of the decade,” Baker said. 

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