People are arguing about whether genetically modified foods should carry labels. But the next generation of GMOs might not only be unlabeled—they might be unregulated.
Over at Scientific American you can read a 6,000-word story about how one such plant, a GM mushroom, was created. The short version is that a plant scientist named Yinong Yang used the gene-editing technique called CRISPR to snip out a few DNA letters in the genome of “Agaricus bisporus, the most popular dinner-table mushroom in the Western world.”
The result: he turned off an enzyme that turns mushrooms brown.
Why wouldn’t a modified mushroom be regulated, you ask? Because regulation of GMOs is a big mess that doesn’t make too much sense. Back in the 1900s, when Monsanto and the like were first coming out with biotech crops, the U.S. cobbled together a way to regulate them from existing rules.
Those early GMOs (and most since) had genes from bacteria in them, like the gene that makes Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans survive a dousing of weed killer. What the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided is, since the plants had DNA from germs, it could regulate these crops under its authority to control plant pests.
Read more: Here Come the Unregulated GMOs