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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Scientist advocates gene editing to extend the shelf life of edible mushrooms

A Bayelsa State-based scientist on Sunday, August 29, 2021 advocated the use of emerging techniques that increases the shelf life of edible mushroom to tackle protein deficiency.

Edible mushrooms
Edible mushrooms

Mr ThankGod Timipanipiri-Wood said in Yenagoa, the state capital, that a recently developed genetic technique which increases the shelf life of mushroom from three to 10 days, would transform the economic benefit of mushrooms for its farmers.

Timipanipiri-Wood said the method known as Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and associated protein 9 (CRISPR-Cas9) improved the freshness of edible mushroom by 80 per cent.

According to Timipanipiri-Wood, who is Chief Executive Officer, Greenwood Agribusiness Ltd, said protein deficiency in Nigeria still remained a major threat to the affordable protein needs of our fast growing population.

He noted that recent statistics had shown that over 14 million women and 37 % of children or over 77 million of children in Nigeria under five years, were suffering from one or more protein deficiency diseases or are simply malnourished.

The agribusiness entrepreneur noted that edible mushroom production was an alternative protein source and a money-spinning agro-venture that could create 16 million jobs for the youths and women, while addressing the protein and medicinal needs of Nigerians.

He, however, regretted that the shelf life of this perishable food product had continued to be a source of concern to its producers, marketers and end users not just in Nigeria but globally.

“With the current modern biotechnology application called Gene editing, the problem of shelf life and other organoleptic properties can be reduced greatly.

“Just like vegetables and fruits, mushrooms are perishable in nature and deteriorate within a day after harvest due to their high respiration rate and delicate epidermal structure.

“The effect of the perishable nature of mushrooms can really be frustrating to a small scale mushroom farmer, for instance in Ibadan, who produces 100 kg of fresh mushroom fruits weekly but sells only 70 kg to his clients in Lagos and Benin.

“Because of the distance of the market to his harvesting room, he might suffer over 30% loss due to very short shelf life of the produce,” he said.

He explained that the gene editing technique afforded scientists the ability to modify the DNA of mushrooms to keep them fresh for up to 10 days or more, just like apples, and that the CRISPR-Cas9 system had wide acceptability across the scientific community.

Timipanipiri-Wood said that the reason for the wide acceptability was because it was faster than conventional breeding and cheaper than genetically modified products.

He added that the new method was also more accurate and more efficient than other existing genome editing methods, stressing that it was plausible that the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) had been providing guidelines for gene editing in Nigeria.

“It means individuals, institutions and corporate companies can get approval from NBMA for the research on gene edited mushrooms.

“After the release of the gene edited oyster strain, mushroom  farmers can smile home with greater returns as production loss due to decaying or deterioration would have been reduced drastically.

“It is now up to well-meaning mushroom breeders, molecular biologists, mycophagists, and relevant government institutions to take advantage of this new technology to address the problems of post harvest loss,” he said.

By Nathan Nwakamma

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