Agaricus bisporus is not your naturally-created mushroom as it was created by Yinong Yang, a Penn State geneticist. The mushroom is defiant against browning and has also become the first ever CRISOR-edited food to have ever been green lit by the US government. It is resistant to browning as the mushroom targets the family of genes that encodes an enzyme which would otherwise turn itself brown as it ages.
Agaricus Bosporus is the First CRISPR-Edited Food to be Green Lit by the US Government
Upon using the CRISPR/cas9 gene-editing tool, Yinong Yang was able to knock out a bunch of base pairs within the genome of Agaricus bosporus. The result is the mushroom has reduced enzyme activity by upwards of 30-percent. In other words, it was a case of addition by subtraction. Unlike many other GMOs, this new fungus does not contain any genetic information that has been derived from another organism, or what would otherwise be called as transgenes.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) was asked to consider the new Agaricus bisporus back in October of last year. Half a year later, APHIS has released their decision in the form of a letter. It states: “APHIS does not consider CRISPR/Cas9-edited white button mushrooms as described in your October 30, 2015 letter to be regulated.” In other words, the fungus can be grown and sold without the need for further oversight.
Before people would hold it against Yang for creating a genetically modified mushroom that is safe to be grown and sold, Nature News explains the reason because of a certain loophole: “Yang’s mushroom did not trigger USDA oversight because it does not contain foreign DNA from ‘plant pests’ such as viruses or bacteria. Such organisms were necessary for genetically modifying plants in the 1980s and 1990s, when the US government developed its framework for regulating GMOs. But newer gene-editing techniques that do not involve plant pests are quickly supplanting the old tools.”
This is not the first time wherein a genetically modified organism such as Agaricus bisporus has escaped US regulations. Yang’s mushroom is now one of approximately 30 GMOs that have already evaded regulation in the past five years. What makes this browning-resistant mushroom unique from other is that it was the first to have been modified by CRISPR, which is the current cause célèbre of the biotech sector. Other known plants have already been modified with pre-existing genetic tools, which include ZFN and TALENS.