Fungus Among Us
Genetically Altered Mushrooms Approved for Consumption
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) is a new method of editing genomes of farm animals and food crops. White button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) that have been genetically modified to delay the natural browning process are the first CRISPR-edited organisms to receive approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Yinong Yang, a plant pathologist from Penn State University, crafted the modified mushrooms by targeting the family of genes responsible for the browning effect seen in produce when sliced and exposed to oxygen. Yang was able to reduce the browning enzyme’s work by 30 percent and was granted approval from the USDA because no foreign or altered DNA was integrated into the mushroom genome. The department only assesses whether there’s a risk that the new modified variety of an organism could become a weed or “pest” to other plants.
The mushrooms may still be subject to Food and Drug Administration or Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine are in discussions about developing a new set of rules for the biotech industry in the next five to 10 years.
This article appears in the February 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.