Technology that deals with genetic modifications is constantly evolving. We have recently received the news that the new sort of mushrooms that contains edited genes will not be regulated by USDA and will not require their approval in order to be mass produced. You might be wondering why and here is the answer – Yinong Yang, professor of plant pathology at Penn State developed and used a new form of modification that is absolutely harmless.
The technology which was applied is called CRISPR-Cas9 which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, and it is a brand new way of genetically modifying the organisms. What makes it so special? Well, the most common way to modify an organism is to introduce the foreign DNA to the genes, whether they come from bacteria or other organisms. CRISPR-Cas9 makes sure that there are no transgenes in the final version of the organism because they target a single genome with a DNA modifying enzyme. The result is a “clean” genetically modified organism.
Yinong Yang worked on a mushroom that doesn’t turn brown as it age. He specifically altered the gene that is in charge of producing that brown color within a mushroom. With eliminating this aging factor in the mushroom, we now have a product that will last longer and be resistant to both ripening and being damaged by mishandling in the supermarkets. Plus, there is no foreign DNA involved.
The decision made by USDA surely did spark a debate among the people who are firmly against genetically modified food, but Yinong Yang is sure that his research is completely safe and that it will revolutionize the agricultural production due to the fact that in theory, CRISPR-Cas9 can be applied to any given crop and it will greatly improve it.
As a matter of fact, CRISPR-Cas9 can make crops stronger and more resistant to various diseases and pests. It can also make them survive droughts, unfavorable conditions, and drive them to utilize the surrounding elements to their advantage. CRISPR-Cas9 can also make crops use nitrogen and phosphorous more efficiently in order to grow.
The development of this new GMO technology can become the future or agriculture. The tests have shown that it is completely benign and it can do wonders for various plants and crops. Therefore, it will be pleasing to both scientist who are working with GMO and those who strongly oppose any sort of modifications.
Yang also hopes that his discovery and usage of CRISPR-Cas9 will finally end the debate whether GMO is safe or not. It most certainly has the potential to be used on a greater scale. However, CRISPR-Cas9 still requires FDA’s approval and it will be submitted for inspection in the near future. FDA needs to take a closer look at all new products and we are sure that they will be fascinated with the safe anti-browning mushrooms just like the rest of us.
FDA needs to put their stamp of approval before any sort of mass production can begin and they will very likely take their time with this one. Even though CRISPR-Cas9 seems to be entirely harmless, there are plenty of tests that needs to be conducted and the never ending debate about the safety of genetically modified foods and products will most certainly continue.
Yang will carry on with his efforts of testing out CRISPR-Cas9 on other plants as well, trying to perfect the small flaws and see if it actually works. We hope that FDA will test Yang’s discovery as soon as possible, reach the verdict quickly, and that the anti-browning mushrooms will hit the shelves in the near future.