In 2016, quite a stir was created due to the White Button Mushrooms. The first gene-edited product, CRISPR-Cas9, was designed to skirt the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) regulation. Although, the creators of mushrooms did not purposely try to evade the system. During that time, the USDA was only required to regulate genetically engineered products containing foreign DNA.
The White Button Mushroom case exemplifies the importance of definitions in regulating cutting-edge technologies. A Scientific American article about the mushroom explained, “With that regulatory door even slightly ajar, companies are racing to get gene-edited crops into the fields and, ultimately, into the food supply. … To companies, this suggests that U.S. authorities view the new techniques as fundamentally distinct from transgenic methods; to critics, it suggests a regulatory loophole that companies are exploiting.”
By 2016, discussions were underway to revamp the legal texts as policymakers knew that the U.S. regulation of crop biotechnology was out of date. Since then, the USDA has updated its regulation in great detail which effectively handles gene editing. Unfortunately, the United States remains ill-equipped to make decisions about certain classes of emerging crops.