What is in your CRISPR?

Holidays certbutton-mushroomsainly have a direct correlation with food. We obsess about having just the right combination of traditional fare mixed in with the latest culinary adventure. Who would think that a staple like the white button mushroom could cause an uproar within the world of foodies?

Pennsylvania State University has devised a method of making that simple white mushroom stay that way for a long time, avoiding the waste you find in the back corner of your refrigerator when the fungus turns slimy and brown. Clustered Regulatory Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is a system that targets genetic code. In this case, the Penn State researchers were able to delete a base pair from the genetic code and gain longer shelf life.

The key word above was ‘delete’. In regular Genetically Modified Organisms we typically find something added to the genome of the species; here they took something away. That differentiates the resultant mushroom enough to escape regulation by the USDA. The food warriors have called this mushroom a Frankenfood. The food scientists (88% of them) believe that this is another ‘generally safe’ modification.

Ultimately the public must decide. Hopefully the CRISPR technology will not be vilified by emotion, but, rather, vetted by science. The whole reason to conduct the research is to find a way to keep the estimated 40% of wasted food in the US in the refrigerator rather than in the trash. To feed the billions of people on this planet we will need more efficient methods of growing and handling all of our food.

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