By Steve Elliott
A team of researchers launched the Cannabis Evolution Project last year with an important goal: mapping the genetic structure of marijuana, effectively protecting the biodiversity of the plant from corporate interests which might seek to capitalize on legal pot by patenting select strains.
Rumors have swirled for years that corporate agrochemical giant Monsanto had either plans or an active project to genetically modify marijuana in advance of nationwide legalization, reports Kyle Jaeger at attn:. This GMO marijuana would threaten the diversity of cannabis agriculture and put corporate interests in a position to make huge profits once the government gave approval.
Monsanto stoutly denies such speculation, but that hasn’t stopped some scientists from taking preemptive action to prevent it from become a reality from any of the corporate behemoths hungrily eyeing the cannabis market.
Cannabis is a crop on par with corn in terms of both multifunctional properties and biological reach, Dr. Mowgli Holmes, cofounder and Chief Scientific Officer at Phylos Bioscience, told a conference in Portland, Oregon, last week. Like corn, marijuana’s been around for millennia, having been domesticated by humans at least 10,000 years ago, he said.
This pushed marijuana “to a point in the evolutionary landscape that it never would’ve gotten on its own,” Dr. Holmes said.
Holmes said he’s leading Phylos Bioscience’s efforts to create the DNA map of various cannabis strains in part to keep marijuana in the public domain, outside of the privatized, corporate sector that would imperil the diversity and potential of the plant.
This would “piss off Monsanto,” in effect, according to Dr. Holmes.
Many believe Monsanto has been bad for the biodiversity of crops by patenting its genetically modified versions of seeds and, in effect, monopolizing the agricultural industry worldwide. After all, between 88 and 91 percent of American crops like corn and soybeans are already genetically modified, reports Mike Adams at High Times.
But Monsanto, responding to rumors, released a statement saying that it “has not and is not working on GMO marijuana.”
“This allegation is an Internet rumor and a lie,” the company posted on its website.
But since cannabis is expected to be a $13 billion crop in the United States by 2020, speculation is high among advocates about possible corporate profiteering. As soon as the corporate agrochemical sector felt it had a clear, legal shot at the market, according to some advocates, pot is at risk of being modified and monopolized.
“We don’t want your franken-joints!”