USDA: CRISPR edited Mushrooms don’t need approval

Several people have asked for my perspective on the recently approved CRISPR mushrooms and I thought I’d share a few thoughts on why this is an important first step for commercial CRISPR usage.

First, what actually happened? The USDA reviewed the science behind a slower browning mushroom and decided the one alteration made with CRISPR, essentially making a handful of genetic changes that reduced the browning effect of an enzyme, wasn’t in and of itself a risk and as such, didn’t fall under the regulated category.

This was an important decision and distinction, as no viral, bacterial or non-species DNA had been added into the mushroom (unlike other GMO’s) and only a small change had been made to an enzyme to make it less effective, reducing browning by 30% that improved the mushroom’s shelf life.

This in general is good for CRISPR technology as it points to a new path and use of CRISPR for agriculture, from non-browning apples to other applications to keep fruits and vegetables from spoiling too soon and it’s a positive sign for regulation of future innovation in this and other spaces for CRISPR technology as it shows that regulators are actively thinking about balancing new innovation with regulating realistic risk assessments.

Still not sure what CRISPR is? Check out this primer to get up to speed.