For the first time, a food product created using CRISPR – could be on track to be sold and eaten. And it might be the first of many. Few scientific issues are more divisive than the regulation and labeling of genetically modified organisms, otherwise known as GMOs. A new fungus shows just how murky our understanding of the technology – and our policy surrounding it – remains. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed that it will not regulate the cultivation and sale of a white-button mushroom created using CRISPR.
The decision came in the form of a letter to Yinong Yang, a plant pathologist at Pennsylvania State University who created the new mushroom. Yang's frankenfungi is a simple Agaricus bisporus, the kind of white-button mushroom you could buy at any grocery store. But Yang targeted several genes that code for the protein that causes mushrooms to turn brown as they age or get bruised. The result is a mushroom more resilient to automated harvesting and long storage periods.