Partner Spotlight

In Conversation: Conscious™ Foods Nutritionist Advisory Council Member Kristen F. Gradney & Pairwise CEO Dr. Tom Adams

Girl smiling with chard in a garden According to the USDA, for one in six Americans, healthy, fresh food is either too expensive, too far away, or both. Pairwise, a health-focused food and agriculture company, recently announced a partnership with Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to support a joint goal of increasing access to healthy, fresh, and affordable food. Both Pairwise and PHA share a mission of finding innovative solutions to the issues facing the current food system, solutions that include PHA’s Good Food For All program and Pairwise’s progress leveraging CRISPR and other technology to bring tastier, more nutritious, and more convenient produce to market.

Leading industry dietitian and Conscious Foods’ Nutritionist Advisory Council Member, Kristen Gradney recently hosted a Q&A with Pairwise CEO and Co-Founder Tom Adams. They discussed the mission alignment of Pairwise and PHA and the intended positive impact of the organizations’ shared programming.

Kristen: Thank you for taking time for this conversation, Tom. And congratulations and kudos on the recently announced Pairwise and PHA 3-year partnership. It’s great Pairwise is supporting PHA’s Good Food For All program. Can you tell me why you chose to support PHA?

Tom: Thanks, Kristen. The aim of the partnership is to not only help communities across the country gain greater access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables, but also to create sustainable and equitable access to healthy food in communities across the country. PHA is doing amazing work to connect families with more than just calories. At Pairwise, our vision for the future is to break down the barriers that prevent so many of us from eating more healthy fruits and vegetables. There’s a lot of alignment between our two organizations in terms of what we’re trying to achieve.

Nutrition security is something you and I have talked about a lot, but for the benefit of the readers here, since you’re so actively involved and experienced in the food and health advocacy space, I’m curious to hear why you think there is such a large percentage of people in our country — and the world really — who are undernourished and what are some of the best opportunities to have impact?

Kristen: According to the CDC, fewer than one in ten American adults consume the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. There are many reasons why we choose unhealthier food options including cost, convenience, access, marketing, and preference. The barriers to accessing healthy food are many and they are complex. There’s no single driver, and no easy solutions. It will take all kinds of partners working together, bringing our own specific skill sets to tackle this challenge. There is a much-needed role for technology and innovation in the space, and it’s great to see Pairwise jumping in.

I know improving access is at the core to Pairwise’s mission; additionally, it’s something PHA is focused on. Can you speak to how the partnership will address the issue of access?

Tom: At Pairwise we’re trying to reduce barriers to accessing healthy fruits and vegetables through the application of cutting-edge gene editing technology. The approach we’re taking, though, is a new way of accelerating what nature can already do by changing a plant’s own DNA to add or increase desirable traits and reduce or eliminate undesirable traits.

With our approach of using CRISPR/gene editing, we can make small changes that bring about big benefits to healthy produce. We can bring in traits that make produce more tasty, more convenient, and more desirable, without compromising on nutrition.

Some of the things we’re working on now include growing greens with increased nutritional value, making seedless blackberries and raspberries, and developing snackable, bite-size, pit-less stone fruit. In the future, we hope to also be able to tackle issues like extending shelf life and accelerating crop adaptation to a changing climate. We believe innovation in fresh produce has the potential to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables and in turn, increase people’s health. CRISPR also allows us to accelerate innovation in produce — which is so needed to address dietary challenges during these urgent times.

Kristen: Those are such exciting developments. Considering how similar the goals are for both PHA and Pairwise, it seems like this is just the beginning.

Tom: The possibilities really do feel limitless when you consider melding Pairwise’s innovative technology with PHA’s reach and infrastructure. It now seems much more possible to effectively address big issues around hunger and human health.

Kristen: I think the role of technology and innovation cannot be underestimated as we continue to tackle the issues facing our food system. From gene editing to developments further along the supply chain, innovation is key to securing a successful and healthy future of improved well-being for everyone.

Tom: Of course, I absolutely agree. I can’t wait to see what the future holds and look forward to working closely with PHA in the years to come to advance our shared goals.

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