April 17, 2016
If you think our genetic food chain has been royally screwed up by big bio-ag’s like Monsanto and Syngenta, and massively over-processed by Big Food, things are just about to get a whole lot worse, and what’s more, our own government is doing it to us – yet again.
As reported by Business Insider, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a letter to the public last week confirming that the agency does not plan to regulate a mushroom that has been genetically modified so that it won’t turn brown.
The letter was in response to an inquiry from mushroom developer Dr. Yinong Yang, of the College of Agricultural Services at Penn State University, about whether a division of the USDA would be seeking to regulate the mushroom.
This decision, wherever it ultimately came from, is in contrast to the USDA’s previous approach with GMOs, which are regulated by the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). That division supposedly monitors new genetically modified foods that “may pose a risk to plant health,” according to the agency’s website.
Genetic suicide of the food chain?
The mushroom is not the first crop to be modified using the controversial gene-editing technique CRISPR-Cas9, but it is the first plant that the USDA says is not subject to regulation. “That means everything we know about genetically modified food may be about to change,” Business Insider noted.
As reported by the website Ensia in January, CRISPR is expected to bring about big changes within the food chain, and as you might imagine, the potential for lasting genetic damage of foods is high. What used to take researchers weeks, months and years of genetic tinkering to accomplish, CRISPR can do in a fraction of the time.
“It really opens up the genome of virtually every organism that’s been sequenced to be edited and engineered,” said Jill Wildonger of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“In the past, it was a student’s entire Ph.D. thesis to change one gene,” Bruce Conklin, a geneticist at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, told The New York Times. “CRISPR just knocked that out of the park.”
What makes the technique highly controversial is the potential for misuse – and the history of Mankind is fraught with examples of misuse of technology. As we reported just last month:
“Formally known as Crispr-Cas9, the genetic editing tool works like two low-cost but highly precise molecular scissors, cutting out undesirable or unwanted portions of DNA, replacing it with desired ones. The system has essentially revolutionized what used to be a very time-consuming and expensive process that was also not very accurate. Now, scientists and countries are falling all over themselves to exploit and advance the technology, and for a range of uses and purposes – some of which are not likely to be ethical or smart.”