The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided that it will not regulate the cultivation or sale of a genetically modified mushroom. With the help of the CRISPR gene-editing tool and a plant pathologist at Pennsylvania State University, this mushroom will be the first of its kind utilizing that tool to escape federal oversight.
The specific mushroom fungus undergoing modification is Agaricus bisporus, a variety of popular white button mushrooms.
Gene-editing reduces browning--a common and frustrating characteristic for those who consume mushrooms. The pathologist--Yinong Yang--has been able to pinpoint polyphenol oxidase within the mushroom--an enzyme that causes the browning. When Yang altered the mushroom’s genome, browning activity dipped by 30 percent.
This mushroom is not the first genetically modified food item that the USDA has granted immunity from regulation. In fact, potatoes and apples that have undergone genetic manipulation have already been approved for sale to the public. In this particular case though, regulation was likely avoided due to no involvement of viruses, bacteria or other foreign DNA types--those of which do require federal oversight.
Despite getting past the USDA, the mushroom may still need to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. While this secondary approval reportedly isn’t required, Yang would like to eliminate any future headaches.