Researchers from Penn State University have devised a new and effective way to genetically edit food. However, the new tool seems to gather different responses due to the loose regulatory system of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), defining genetically modified organisms or GMO.

Professor Yinong Yang of Penn State University snipped out a tiny piece of DNA from one particular gene in a white button mushroom using the popular gene-editing tool called CRISPR/Cas9. This resulted to the disabling of the gene, which, in turn, reduced the production of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. The reduction improved the mushroom's appearance and shelf life.

The CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tool has also recently made waves for its potential as a cure for HIV.

Unsure if the modified mushroom is under the regulation of THE USDA, Yang sent a Regulated Article Letter of Inquiry to the department, detailing the process and result of his gene-editing.

According to the 7 Code of Federal Regulations part 340 (7CFR340) of the Plant Protection Act (PPA) of 2000, the USDA and Plant Health Inspection Service have the authority to regulate the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of certain GMOs.

Under the provision, GMOs are classified as regulated articles if they have been genetically engineered by introducing foreign genetic material such as germs, causing to new varieties that could become pests to other plants.

Considering the process of the gene-editing and the provisions of the 7CFR340, the USDA responded to Yang's inquiry letter, saying that the gene-edited mushroom is not under the regulation article.

Despite being unregulated, Yang told Technology Review that companies, such as Giorgio Mushroom Co. which helped in funding the research, is not yet convinced if they want to make the gene-edited mushroom commercially available.

"[The] marketing people at Giorgio are more interested in organic mushrooms and are afraid of negative response regarding GMO from consumers," said Yang.

The findings of Yang is published in Scientific American.