USDA says OK to genetically modified mushrooms that don’t bruise or turn brown

mushroomIn a surprise decision, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) just announced that it won’t regulate the cultivation and sale of a genetically altered mushroom. The mushroom was modified using the CRISPR gene-editing tool, and it’s the first of its kind to get the go ahead from the federal government.

The particular fungus in question stems from the common white button mushroom, known to the scientific community as Agaricus bisporus. Penn State plant pathologist Yinong Yang used CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to introduce a genetic modification that reduces browning, which pretty much anyone who’s ever sliced a mushroom will have experienced. Genetically-speaking, Yang targeted the gene group that encodes an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, which is known to cause browning. By removing just a few base pairs from the mushroom’s genome, Yang was able to reduce the browning enzyme’s activity by 30%…

In the meantime, Yang is considering starting a commercial venture to support his effort to genetically remove the browning enzyme from a variety of fruits and vegetables. Genetically-modified apples and potatoes engineered by other researchers have already been approved for market sale, since reducing browning increases shelf-life. So while the United States scurries to reimagine its regulations and rules surrounding GMOs, geneticists continue to plough on with developments that could revolutionize the way we eat.  Source

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