Anna’s GMO pink pineapple adventure

By Anna Garber Hammond

March 1, 2021

On a cold and snowy Valentine’s Day in New York, a festive display of genetically modified Pinkglow pineapple caught my attention at the local grocery store. I bought one as the perfect gift for my friend and colleague, Sarah Evanega, director of the Cornell Alliance for Science.

A couple of days later, Sarah suggested we buy all the pink pineapples in the store. She saw it as a chance to organize a fun GMO social media campaign and connect with key supporters. I saw it as a rare opportunity to dress up during the pandemic and pose for pictures. How could I resist?

After donning all the pink accessories in my closet, I ventured back to purchase the remaining 36 pineapples. Shoppers and store staff were impressed with the pineapples spilling out of the grocery cart and my own pink glow. It was fun to liven things up a bit during a global pandemic when not much is happening in our daily lives.

AfS staff member Anna Garber Hammond prepares to purchase pink pineapples.

I wrote a note in pink ink to include with each pineapple and shipped them off to all parts of the country in the midst of yet another northeastern winter storm. Along with positive social media posts about this unexpected gift came questions about how the pineapple had been genetically engineered.

Pineapples contain pink pigment (lycopene) and yellow pigment (beta carotene). The Pinkglow pineapple has been modified to produce lower levels of the enzymes that convert lycopene to beta carotene, allowing the fruit to become naturally pink. Lycopene is the same pigment that makes tomatoes red and watermelons pink, so it is commonly found in many fruits and vegetables and totally safe to eat.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved it for consumption on December 2020. The pineapples are grown in the south-central region of Costa Rica. To retain control of the genetics, the pineapple crowns are removed before shipping and replanted.

Everyone in my family enjoyed the pine pineapple immensely, finding it juicier and sweeter than a typical pine. The adults had caviar canapes on Friday and pineapple-garnished cocktails on Sunday, while my son enjoyed his fruit unadorned for breakfast.

Look for the Pinkglow pineapple on the Alliance’s Modified food cart when we can hit the road again, at long last.