USDA Won’t Regulate a CRISPR/Cas9 Gene-Edited Mushroom

"GMO mushroom"

No matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to avoid talking about a whole plethora of controversial subjects. In the past we’ve approached many subjects that were considered ‘hot topics’, and we’ve managed, at least in our public’s opinion, to do them justice. Let’s hope we’ll manage the same for today’s topic.

The public has already started dissenting talks regarding a new product, as the USDA won’t regulate a CRISPR/Cas9 gene-edited mushroom. While I, personally, kind of agree with the decision that the mushroom needs no regulation, the whole matter will be presented in the typical, unbiased The Monitor Daily way.

So, before we delve into the contradicting points of view, let’s talk about exactly what happened first, so that I make you acquainted with all the factors of the equation. First of all, the genetically modified mushrooms are the very common white button mushrooms. And the procedure used to modify them genetically is last year’s very highly debated CRISPR/Cas9.

As for what exactly the scientists did to the mushrooms, the answer is far more simple than what news have been trying to make it out to be. The only gene modified by the researchers is the one that allows the mushrooms to brown with age. While this can indeed lead to some unsavory marketing practices, it doesn’t really warrant having to be regulated by the US government.

One of the most important reasons for which the mushrooms don’t really have any need for government regulating is that no genes from other species were added at all. In fact, even the procedure’s most avid critics recognize that the only modification that was made to the fungus was to reduce the activity of the enzyme that causes the mushrooms to brown by 30-something percent.

So what does that actually mean? Well, it simply means that the fungus won’t go bad as fast as it used to. Instead of going brown and wrinkly with age, the mushrooms will simply remain in their white, prim state for a while longer. They will eventually go brown again, but closer to the time period when they start growing bad.

According to Rodolphe Barrangou, a food scientist with the North Carolina University,

The mushroom is likely to be the first of an ongoing pipeline. I would be surprised if the number of labs looking to develop CRISPR food products wasn’t well into the hundreds. Everyone I talk to who is doing any genetics research is using CRISPR. The first instance is always compelling, but in six months the number will be much higher.

Still, this seems to be the only detriment of having the product not be regulated – setting a precedent. The genetic editing was highly tested, with the team making sure that it causes no harm whatsoever. And if the only thing modified was for the mushroom to stay fresh for longer, there really is no point to having it regulated by the government. After all, the product distributors are still obligated to label the mushrooms as GMO, so people know exactly what they’re getting into.

Image source: Pixabay