In 2015, the fake news website, World News Daily Report created a massive internet hoax that still gets spread around today. The hoax claimed that Monsanto was creating a genetically modified cannabis to supply to the cannabis industry. Although it's not entirely unbelievable, this was proven completely false. However, fast-forward to 2017 and GMO cannabis is now a reality which is getting coverage in the mainstream media.
In an article from Reuters this week, on biotechnology being used to lower nicotine in tobacco, the biotech company, 22nd Century Group was highlighted for their work in trying to make cigarettes less addictive by genetically engineering tobacco to have less of the drug.
However, also in the article was the admission that the company has more than 200 patents that give it the ability to increase or decrease the level of nicotine in tobacco plants, as well as the level of cannabinoids in cannabis plants.
What was once fake news, is now a reality.
According to 22nd Century Group, they were granted an exclusive sublicense in the United States and a co-exclusive sublicense in the remainder of the world, excluding Canada, to patents and patent applications relating to the cannabis plant that are required for the production of cannabinoids, the major active ingredients in the cannabis plant.
The company claims that their intention is to foster the growth of the hemp industry in the United States by creating a cannabis that has zero THC, thus making it legal under the government's tyrannical standards.
However, without this GMO cannabis, headway is already being made in states across the country in regards to hemp through states refusing to listen to the feds. As TFTP reported in June, Nevada became the latest state to defy the federal government’s apparent “War on Nature” by legalizing commercial industrial hemp production.
Industrial hemp already contains little to no THC, so the need to genetically modify it to make it 'legal' in the eyes of the state is as absurd as it is unnecessary. However, given the shift toward a more sustainable society, it is highly likely that hemp production will skyrocket over the next decade.
Those who own patents on the hemp which will be allowed by the federal government first will essentially create a monopoly on their product using the state to block other, natural, growers.
In essence, through the use of government granted monopolies, 22nd Century Group and others like them could become to hemp what Monsanto has become to corn and soy.
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While this is speculation at this point, it is important to raise awareness now before the only hemp allowed to be grown in the United States requires massive amounts of chemical inputs like most agriculture on the planet today.
“The cannabis industry should be aware that sooner rather than later, there will be big ag at play in this industry,” Dr. Reggie Gaudino of the Berkeley-based Steep Hill cannabis laboratory said, according to the Eureka Standard-Times. “And big ag uses exactly these techniques. We’re working to help the current population of farmers and breeders retain relevance when big ag comes knocking on the door.”
The good news is that if 22nd Century Group or other biotech firms like them ever attempt to market a high THC version of their GMO cannabis for medicinal or personal consumption, survey says—people won't buy it.
“I don’t think there is anything that GMOs could do for cannabis that we need that couldn’t be done by advanced plant breeding techniques,” Phylos Bioscience’s CEO Mowgli Holmes in Oregon said to High Times in May. “GMOs can make cannabis that glows in the dark, but we don’t need that.”
As Maureen Meehan writes, while we all would like to know more about cannabis science—especially as CBD and medical marijuana become increasingly important—most of us want our weed to be grown as naturally as possible and preferably outdoors.
For now, however, Dr. Gaudino has a strategy to ensure a sufficient fight against big ag's GMO inevitable attempt to take over the cannabis industry — breed your butts off and make every strain you can to have them all open source.
“At some point, big agriculture, Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, the pharmaceutical industry, they’re all going to jump on the bandwagon once everything goes from schedule I to schedule II… A savvy observer of the industry will see that the movement is gaining momentum and is moving towards that direction. Why is that important?”
“That’s important because every strain that is publicly available for sale right now basically becomes open source. Patent law states that you can’t apply for a patent of any kind on anything that’s been being sold for a year or more. The message that Steep Hill is trying to get out is, if you’re a breeder, the best thing that you can be doing right now is breeding your butt off.”
“Finding those nuances, going after those new unique strains, trying to develop better phenotypes so that you can have some relevance a few years down the line. There’s not a single grower who seriously has the power to compete with the likes of the Monsanto or Dow AgroSciences.”
“The only thing left then is to put your stake in the ground and to really protect your strains so that when everything that’s on the shelves now becomes open source, you have something better to offer the community. That’s exactly the message we’re trying to do.”