Wednesday, February 12, 2014

FrankenFear Weed

Is medical marijuana genetically modified (GMO)?

This is a common curiosity among many folks, including cannabis connoisseurs, when finding out that
GMO pot is on the market. Isn’t all pot genetically engineered? In truth, this same question has been posed to John Diaz and me during our label GMO information meetings in Orange County. As a public service to both stoners and non-stoners, here is a report to enlighten both groups. Monsanto is our common enemy, and our kids’ boogieman.

‘There are thousands of different strains of marijuana, created for all sorts of reasons. The last decade has seen an incredible increase in the understanding that certain strains of marijuana are better for certain ailments, and growers and caretakers have bred plants specifically for those diseases. In a recent CNN special, for example, Dr. Sanjay Gupta profiled the strain “Charlotte’s Web,” which was created with a high CBD content and low THC content, contributing to its effectiveness in treating a child’s violent seizures without the “high” typically associated with THC. 

Is all that marijuana what we’d call “GMO”? No. 

Part of the confusion rests in what the public understands about plant [food] science. Since practically the dawn of agriculture, people have taken the traits they like in two different plants and bred the plants together, hoping the offspring would embody the good traits of each and none of the bad. Farmers call these hybrids. And just as humans only produce offspring with other humans, plants can only breed naturally with like plants — you’ll never see a tomato, for example, breeding with fish. 

In other words, say you want a cannabis plant that’s easy to grow and has a high CBD (cannabidiol, a cannabinoid known for its therapeutic impact) content. Cannabis plant A is easy to grow, but has a low amount of CBD. Cannabis plant B is harder to grow, but has a high amount of CBD. By breeding the two together, you could get hundreds of seeds. You plant them, and then test them using a machine to determine which plants have your desired qualities. Those are the plants you keep. The plants that didn’t yield those qualities, you destroy

This is classic breeding, and it’s a natural process, using “biotechnology” to test and confirm what aspects of the breeding were successful. Yes, humans are assisting, but they aren’t splicing into the cannabis plant’s DNA a gene from a tomato plant to create red-colored buds, for example. That would be an unnatural process — cannabis plants don’t breed with tomatoes. And that is what GMO frequently is all about: genetic modification, by putting something into the plant or taking something out in a way that would not naturally occur. It’s an intentional removal, or addition, to the plant’s DNA

People confuse “‘I’m using biotechnology’ with ‘genetically modified,’ ” says Anndrea Hermann, owner of The Ridge International Cannabis Consulting, an international consulting group concerning all things cannabis. (Hermann is also an expert in plant science who serves as the president of the Hemp Industries Association.) “I’m using a tool, a machine, that can look at an attribute, a quality or a trait, to tell me early on in my breeding program if that’s a good plant to keep. Early detection of the quality is what we’re looking for.” Think of early detection of a disease in your body — no one wants to waste time or money or health waiting until the disease is out of control. The same is true with cannabis plants.

Is it possible to genetically modify cannabis? Absolutely, says Hermann. But does that mean Monsanto (the widely-recognized king of GMO corporations) is cooking up some GMO weed, as thousands of writers and bloggers have speculated online? 

“No,” says Sara Miller, of Monsanto Public Affairs. “Monsanto is not conducting research in this area and I am not aware of any legitimate research in this area under development by other seed companies. Any rumored involvement by seed companies is ‘urban legend.’ ” 

Meanwhile, the industrial hemp industry has gone as far as placing a moratorium on genetically modifying hemp. “It’s a responsibility of the trade associations and their members” to keep genetic modification from happening, says Hermann. 

At this time, though, there is no moratorium on genetic modification in the cannabis or medical marijuana industry. Which isn’t to say that it’s happening with any frequency. “I think we’re far from [genetically modifying cannabis],” says Betty Aldworth, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “The possibility of genetically modifying cannabis is so far down the road, no one [in the professional cannabis industry] is even discussing the possibility.”'

Sorry Betty, our local Veronica, Letitia Pepper tells a different tale, and GMO apples are out, at least in California.

Please watch video below, paying particular attention from the start up to just after the one mark.

(Story source - VALERIE VANDE PANNE;all emphasis - Ed; edited for content)

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