When transgenic cannabis seed comes to market, growers will have many more choices of strains to grow. Genetic modification of cannabis will inevitably lead to an increase in variety since more genetic traits are being introduced into the population. Genetic variety decreases based on a decrease in choice on what varieties to cultivate. Thus, stifling cannabis biotechnology and hindering the research efforts to generate genetically modified cannabis leads to a decrease in varieties. Varieties arise from the breeding of new traits, regardless if they are derived with current biotechnology or from old methods of artificial selection.
Generating a more vigorous plant is a major goal of plant biotechnology along with uniformity, plant structure, climate resistance and unique cannabinoid profiles. Currently, growers often prefer to cultivate more vigorous strains with strong uniformity and a low concentration of THC. Since biotechnology might lead to more strains that poses these traits which will outperform non-transgenic strains, a person would likely rather grow a modified strain. Whether they are indoor cultivars or outdoor cultivars, these traits will be important for successful consistent harvests.
Image: An aerial view taken from a high yielding grain production crop in Wentworth, NSW (Hemp Farms Australia 2020)
Whether genetically modified cannabis will result in good or bad effects on society is of the highest importance. Perhaps the question is most important to people ready to dedicate time, perhaps their lives, to the field of cannabis biotechnology. Perhaps pausing, even if momentarily, is beneficial in allowing time to reflect on some potential questions, even if they cannot be immediately answered. There are some important questions and factors to consider when we begin to understand the future of gene expressions for cannabis –
- Cannabis has been cultivated for thousands of years. Thus, people have been genetically modifying cannabis equally as long. However, at the present moment we are able to transfer a gene from another organism into cannabis. For example, an arctic fish gene expressed in cannabis might allow cannabis to tolerate cold climates. If so, cannabis consumers living in the arctic could grow their own medicine. Would a cannabis consumer living in cold climates appreciate such technology and whole-heartedly desire such a unique cannabis strain?
- Evolution on a molecular level is random. Organisms are constantly evolving. Meanwhile, plant biotechnologist have been told they are changing the course of evolution of a species when inserting new genes. That is what makes the science of plant biotechnology paradoxical. Are cannabis biotechnologist really changing the evolutionary direction of cannabis if there is not a direction to begin with?
Considering the changes that have already occurred in the field of plant biotechnology, questions that address how humanity should proceed seem to be more realistic questions than if humanity should proceed. There is no doubt that more and more people are becoming familiar with plant biotechnology each passing day. We must remember that young scientific fields are almost always met with concerns initially but with time the worries fade and the foreseen potentials become reality. One way to proceed in the field of cannabis biotechnology is with data backed choices and ultimate caution with a focus on the end consumer and most important our environment.
Written by: Lauchlan Grout – Co Founder Hemp Farms Australia
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