by Andrew Walden
Medical marijuana advocates would do well to question anti-genetic protests. These initiatives are a back-door way of re-prohibiting medical marijuana under the guise of banning GM plants.
Ironically, just as marijuana is approaching legalization, anti-GM initiatives give a weapon to drug enforcement agents who could use GM bans to justify raids against marijuana cultivators--even small growers within the “medical marijuana” limits. What protesters have missed is that today’s potent varieties of marijuana were developed by genetic modification. The University of Central Florida even has a pending US Patent for a cannabis sativa genetic modification technique.
In 2011, the genome of cannabis sativa was sequenced and published by British company Medicinal Genomics.
GM marijuana is so widespread it was written up by AFP, June 24, 2011:
Greenhouses lined with genetically modified marijuana sit on a mountainside just an hour ride from Cali, Colombia, where farmers say the enhanced plants are more powerful and profitable.
One greenhouse owner said she can sell the modified marijuana for 100,000 pesos ($54) per kilo (2.2 pounds), which is nearly 10 times more than the price she can get for ordinary marijuana.
Local authorities said the arrival of genetically modified seeds, which are imported from Europe and the United States have allowed "a bigger production and better quality at the same time".
A police commander in the Cauca region where Cali is located, Carlos Rodriguez, said one of the modified varieties goes by the name, "Creepy".
Another seed modified in The Netherlands is fetching a good price in the area, said a foreign researcher, who asked to remain anonymous. That version, well-known in Europe as "La Cominera", is named for the Colombian village where it grows.
"La Cominera's" higher value is due to its increased concentration of THC, the plant's principal active ingredient, and the modified plant verges on an 18 percent concentration level, compared to a normal marijuana plant's two to seven percent, said the researcher.
An August 16, 2011 UK Guardian article was titled: “New improved cannabis, now with genetic modifications”:
“Times change and cannabis is no exception, with the arrival of genetically modified grass. An all-natural product with a low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content is a thing of the past. ‘In just a few years we have moved from 3% or 4% THC contained in natural cannabis to concentrations closer to 10%, sometimes even 30%, with GM plants,’ Thierry explains. These substances bear no relation to what people were smoking in the 1970s.”
After being attacked by British medical marijuana activists fearful of a backlash from anti-GM campaigners, the article was edited with the following note attached:
“The first paragraph of the original article, as translated from the French, referred to "genetically modified" cannabis. The Guardian understands the cultivation of stronger forms of cannabis as described in the article would be the result of methods such as selective breeding. The reference to genetically modified cannabis in the article, as well as in our headline, has therefore been removed. A quote by Superintendent François Thierry in the third paragraph has been replaced with reported speech to convey his main point about an increase in the potency of cannabis — this is to avoid an ambiguity in the original quote that referred also to synthetic cannabis (though rendered by the Guardian as GM cannabis), which contains no THC. The sentence on how the Dutch may consider reclassifying cannabis has been amended to clarify that this relates to the strongest concentrations of cannabis.”
Unless one wants to believe that nobody at the Guardian is a competent French-English translator, the most logical conclusion is that the Guardian did not want to be unwittingly responsible for a dust-up between medical marijuana activists and anti-GM activists. Their rather absurd retraction holds that their reporting is based not on what French officials said, but on what the Guardian staff thinks they should have said.
Maybe somebody should tell the US Patent office to ask the Guardian's permission before it gives final approval to the University of Central Florida patent application which describes:
1. A method of producing a transgenic plant with Bgl overexpression relative to a wild-type plant, said method comprising: (a) introducing into a plant cell an expression cassette that comprises a Bgl gene to thereby produce a transformed plant cell; and (b) producing a transgenic plant from the transformed plant cell, wherein the transgenic plant has increased biomass, increased height, increased trichome density or increased seed production relative to a wild type plant….
9. A transgenic plant that overexpresses Bgl1 relative to a corresponding wild-type plant, wherein said transgenic plant has increased biomass, increased height, increased trichome density or increased seed production relative to a wild type plant….
15. The transgenic plant of claim 9, wherein said transgenic plant is Cannabis sativa, Papaver somniferum or Erythorxylum coca….
The three species mentioned in line 15 are marijuana and two varieties of opium poppy. Contrary to anti-GMO activist claims, GMO developers do not patent seeds, they patent the method for producing GMO seed lines, just as traditional plant breeders patent their hybridization techniques. How do the University of Central Florida techniques affect THC production? “Trichome” refers to the hairs on a plant. In Cannabis, this is where globules of THC resin accumulate. “Bgl overexpression” increases the plants’ resistance to parasites but also may aid in the release of THC resin from plant cells onto the trichomes.
The UK Guardian is not the only example of censorship. The website of Allan Frankel, MD, a Santa Monica, California medical marijuana doctor who specializes in high Cannabinoid, low THC varieties, screams “There Is No GMO Cannabis!” Judging from the rambling letter on his website, it appears he has been harassed by other medical marijuana providers using anti-GMO rhetoric to snatch away ‘patients’. Santa Monica is populated by wealthy, idle, ‘politically correct’ people which of course means corresponding levels of anti-GMO sentiment.
The story of Santa Monica’s high Cannabinoid doctor leads us around the world to--where else--Amsterdam.
By treating cannabis seeds with the powerful, readily available, mutagen colchicine, genetically modified “polyploid” marijuana, with higher levels of marijuana’s active ingredient THC, is created. Simple genetic testing of confiscated marijuana by police laboratories can easily determine if plants are polyploid (have more than the usual two sets of chromosomes) and therefore illegal under any GM crop ban.
Unlike the heavily regulated laboratory genetic modification work of companies and universities improving legal crops, marijuana is modified in unregulated underground labs without oversight. For instance:
- The online marijuana growers guide (section 18-7) explains: “Polyploid Cannabis plants were produced by treatment with the alkaloid colchicine. Colchicine interferes with normal mitosis, the process in which cells are replicated. During replication, the normal doubling of chromosomes occurs, but colchicine prevents normal separation of the chromosomes into two cells. The cell then is left twice (or more then) the normal chromosome count. … experiments concluded that polyploids contained higher concentrations of the ‘active ingredient’. …Polyploid Cannabis has been found to be larger, with larger leaves and flowers.”
- A 95-page 2009 paper by Sam R. Zwenger is titled, “The Biotechnology of Cannabis sativa.” Zwenger gives complete instructions for marijuana tissue culture and genetic modification.
- Robert C. Clarke, in his book Marijuana Botany: The propagation and breeding of distinctive cannabis, explains, “Many clandestine cultivators have started polyploid strains with colchicine…. (Colchicine) treated plants showed a 166-250% increase in THC…possibly colchicine or the resulting polyploidy interferes with cannabinoid biogenesis to favor THC.”
Robert C Clarke is the co-founder and lead botanist of Netherlands-based Hortapharm.
Hortpharm research is behind “Project CBD”, dedicated to developing the high Cannabinoid, low THC varieties favored by the doctor in Santa Monica. The Project CBD website explains:
“In the spring of 1998, the British government licensed a company called GW Pharmaceuticals to grow Cannabis and develop a precisely consistent plant extract for use in clinical trials. GW's co-founder Geoffrey Guy, MD, was convinced —and had convinced the Home Office— that by using CBD-rich plants, GW could produce a Cannabis-based medicine with little or no psychoactive effect. That summer Guy described his approach at a meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society…. It was assumed that generations of breeding for maximum THC had reduced CBD in California cannabis to trace levels. GW had gotten its CBD-rich strains by acquiring the genetic library of HortaPharm, a Dutch seed company run by American ex-pat naturalists, David Watson and Robert Clarke…..”
In other words, Project CBD got its genetic library from the guy who literally wrote the book on genetically modified marijuana.
GW Pharmaceuticals—the company behind Project CBD-- is producing Sativex, approved in Canada and several European countries allegedly for the treatment of seizures related to Multiple Sclerosis. But this is not the same as “synthetic marijuana.” TheFix.com explains: “Sativex is a proprietary extract of the marijuana plant, while Spice, K2 and the other cannabis substitutes are synthetic versions of various molecules found in marijuana.” Synthetic cannabinoids used in K2 and Spice are derived from the published results of mid-1990s experiments at Clemson University.
This writer first pointed to online descriptions of techniques to create Genetically Modified Marijuana back in 2004.
What will anti-GMO protesters do when they discover that they have been smoking genetically modified weed for nearly a decade now?
Related: How to Use Anti-GMO Ordinances to Seize Marijuana Plants: A Guide for Police Departments