GERMANY – Bayer, a global life science company, is making strides in genome editing to improve the nutritional value of vegetables by partnering with external biotech firms.

Bayer aims to tackle global nutritional deficiencies and adapt to changing climates through innovative agricultural practices.

Collaboration with G+FLAS for nutritionally enhanced tomatoes

The company has entered into a collaboration with South Korean biotech company G+FLAS to develop tomato varieties enriched with vitamin D3.

Vitamin D deficiency, which affects an estimated one billion people worldwide, can lead to health issues such as rickets. JD Rossouw, Head of Vegetables Research & Development at Bayer, emphasized the importance of this initiative at the World Seed Congress in Rotterdam.

“Bayer is committed to achieving ‘Health for All, Hunger for None.’ Addressing a widespread nutrition problem and supporting a healthy diet through cutting-edge technology is a proud achievement,” Rossouw said.

The partnership aims to utilize genome editing to develop a variety of tomato products. This technique allows precise changes to a plant’s genome, mirroring what could occur naturally or through traditional breeding, but in a quicker and more accurate manner.

“Modern breeding technologies, such as genome editing, can provide health benefits and resilience to a changing climate. It is an important new technology in a breeder’s toolbox, and we anticipate it being a part of our pipeline moving forward,” Rossouw added.

Ruth Mathieson, Global Head of Strategic Marketing at Bayer Vegetable Seeds, highlighted the consumer demand for nutrient-rich and tasty foods.

“Our commitment is to deliver on these expectations, which provides significant benefits throughout the value chain and enhances the competitiveness of our growers,” Mathieson stated.

Licensing agreement with Pairwise for enhanced leafy greens

Bayer has also acquired a license from US-based startup Pairwise to commercialize their genome-edited mustard greens.

These greens offer higher nutritional value and a fresher flavor than traditional lettuce. This agreement marks the introduction of the first gene-edited food to the North American market.

“This agreement and its focus on genome-edited produce substantially contributed to our open innovation approach. We’re excited to partner with Pairwise on their innovative leafy greens, which deliver a new, great-tasting salad option with high nutrition value,” said JD Rossouw.

The license not only includes commercialization rights for the varieties developed by Pairwise but also the rights to develop new varieties.

Launch of open innovation platform

These unfolding developments come barely months after Bayer launched an open innovation platform focused on genome editing in fruits and vegetables. This platform aims to combine Bayer’s R&D capabilities with external expertise to develop products with increased nutritional content, positive environmental impact, or enhanced consumer appeal.

“Great innovations need great minds and the power of many. This is why we are seeking to partner with academic researchers and companies to develop new fruit and vegetable products,” Rossouw explained.

This initiative follows Bayer’s recent partnership with SILAL, aimed at improving agricultural practices in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Announced during the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in Dubai, the collaboration with SILAL seeks to advance agricultural practices in the UAE’s challenging climate.

Bayer and SILAL are dedicated to fortifying the agricultural sector to combat climate change and enhance resilience.

The partnership will leverage Bayer’s BayG.A.P. capacity-building program, offering training on Integrated Pest Management, Safe Use of Crop Protection Products, Application Technology, and Irrigation.

Through these strategic partnerships and innovative initiatives, Bayer continues to lead the way in enhancing the nutritional value of vegetables and supporting sustainable agricultural practices worldwide.

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