If you follow agribusiness, and you should, you would know that there are major issues regarding the use of Genetically Modified Organisms in plants that produce deliverables that we consume and feed to our animals. There are a great number of external costs paid by industrialized farming for the benefits gained by monocropping – most notably in petroleum and soil loss – but one of the most interesting challenges of the industry has come from the concept of PATENTING LIFE.
Mapping the DNA strains of plants has created a unique opportunity to exchange genomes in a highly engineered and unnatural hybridization process, and allows the engineers to place markers in the genomes so they can identify the plant and prosecute farmers for copyright infringement (growing the seed without paying for the seed). Monsanto has done this with their “roundup ready” seed strain, they have a patent on a gene. Farmers argue that patenting life should be illegal and GMOs discontinued because nature will always intervene, and cross pollination is inevitable. Resulting in some innocent farmers being found guilty of growing patented seeds as a result of mother nature.
In a similar way that Monsanto, Corp. invented the Roundup Gene, and implanted it into their pesticide ready soy beans. Now the soy beans seeds must be bought every year, because Monsanto does not allow seed cleaning or collection based on Intellectual Property Laws. They send PIs after farmers just doing what has been done for centuries, site specific seed propagation. This is why humans exist, after years of cycles seed that thrive under those conditions have their seeds replanted and genetic variation is specified to an “nth” degree. 90% of the soy bean seed market is caught up in these patent laws, so even when seeds drift on to neighboring properties, a farmer can be fined and banned from using Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soy beans, which dominates the market, while non-GMO seeds go rare and scarcer. Storing theses seeds is big money, primarily on the bet of the patent that Monsanto holds will run out.
The start up company that completed the DNA sequencing in 2011 (Full Article Below). Not really a start up. This company has ties. The company founder, Kevin McKernan, worked on the Human Genome Project from 1996 to 2000, and started a commercial laboratory with his two brothers called Agencourt Bioscience, which was sold to Beckman Coulter Inc. in 2005. A spin-out of Agencourt that made sequencing technology, called Agencourt Personal Genomics, was acquired by Applied Biosystems Inc., which combined with Invitrogen Corp. in 2008 to become Carlsbad, California-based Life Technologies. Life Technologies bought Ion Torrent last year for $375 million in cash and stock.
[TWB 2011 commentary: "...more to come on GW pharm, GW Pharmaceutical and other manufacturers want to take over the marijuana market with products like Sativex, a liquid extract of cannabis that contains both THC and CBD. I could totally see the gov't "contracting" a company to insert a gene into the seed supply and then make it illegal to use that seed/gene, implementing a genetic ban, similar to the tax ban of 1937. Its all about control and money. Why the fuck do you want to stop me from getting high? Fuck."]
Aside from the unintended fallouts of patenting life, the original intention of mapping the Sativa DNA structure, like in any GMO process, is to attempt to gain full control over the genetic output of the plants to reach desired effects. NPR (full article below) reported McKernan saw a future of weed that won’t get you high: the company hopes the data will help scientists breed pot plants without much THC, the mind-altering chemical in the plant. The goal is instead to maximize other compounds that may have therapeutic benefits. A Cannabis-derived drug developed by a German pharmaceutical company, GW Pharmaceutical, to treat muscle stiffness. Sativex contains THC and another cannabanoid called CBD, which the company says keeps the psychoactive effects of THC in check.
Pill Form: Marinol or synthetic THC is Tetrahydrocannabinol . It is the principal psychoactive constituent (or cannabinoid) of the cannabis plant. It seems unlikely that removing the “high” from the plant to maximize the cannabinoid properties is counter-intuitive to how the plant works. This is a major warning flag to people trying to genetically engineer the plant for desired traits.
Sequencing the Cannabis Genome: Impact, History, and Future. Spanish scientist Manuel Guzmán’s research documenting that cannabinoids, some of the biologically active compounds in cannabis, have a favorable therapeutic index in cancerous cell cultures and animal models. The sequence bases of C. sativa were made available on August 18th on Amazon EC2—a public cloud computing service—via Nimbus Informatics, an open source data management website. A data assembly is also available for download.
In late 2013, New drug Epidolex by GW Pharmaceuticals gets FDA cinical trial approval for pediatric epilepsy. Epidolex, is a cannabis extract comprising of 98% purified CBD that is administered by syringe. The new drug initially dubbed GWP42006, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid extracted from specific chemotypes of the cannabis plant which has shown the ability to treat seizures in pre-clinical models of epilepsy with significantly fewer side effects than currently approved anti-epileptic drugs. Also, GW Pharmaceuticals Patenting THC and CBD for Brain Cancer. Drug company GW Pharmaceuticals recently announced that the U.S. Patent Office has issued it a Notice of Allowance for a patent application involving the use of two main marijuana chemicals, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) for treating gliomas.
It is AMAZING that scientits have been able to prove that compounds in Mariajuana cure terreible diseases. The next section is pointing out the dangers of Genetic Engineering, and in no way intends to detract from the amazing proof that Marijuana is truly a plant with great potential that needs to be cultivated and studied.
As research and development continue, mysteries of how the marijuana plant interacts with the body’s receptors will lead to medical breakthroughs. Through genetic mapping, cannabinoid profiling and clinical trials performed in the finest US scientific laboratories and universities, we will begin to understand why this plant is so beneficial. Patients will benefit from the growing specialization in the areas of symptom control and condition-based treatment determined by using specific genetic profiles and different qualities of the countless strains of marijuana available We will gain a greater understanding of the properties of cannabinoids and terpenes. Many scientists are already exploring the possibilities in this uncharted territory. With more research, medical marijuana may become a key that unlocks the door to the comfort and wellness of humankind. [source: Medical Marijuana 101 by Mickey Martin]
Mapping the DNA structure and identifying the physical traits associated with each gene are essential and beneficial scientific goals and accomplishments. Refining how traits are described and differentiated, and then documenting these differences as related to specific genomes is imperative. What we do with that information is the big question.
How can we say that Genetic Engineering (GE) is bad if we have success stories like curing child epilepsy and brain tumors resulting from GE methods? The answer is simply that there are specific and unforeseen risks that need to be well known and heeded when the potential costs (external, not just monetary) become too great. GE cannot be given full liberty and leeway. It must be regulated and monitored. When companies get too big, they tend to find ways around regulations.
Especially as there are alternate methods to GE in deriving medicines and hybrids with desired traits related to specific cures – just like the techniques designed by Rick Simpson. GE is much more extreme than hybridizing through natural methods, or using techniques to use the plant in its naturally hybridized form to get desired results.
A great example of an unforeseen risk of GE is the one expected in the effort to create a strain of the plant that will have the amazing healing properties without any of the high. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the principal psychoactive constituent (or cannabinoid) of the cannabis plant. It seems unlikely that removing the “high” from the plant to maximize the cannabinoid properties is counter-intuitive to how the plant works.
Another pervasive problem is the very basic fact that GE manipulates genomes in an unnatural way. Hybridization through plant mating and allowing for phenotypes (the physical representation of a genetic trait) to be reflected physically in offspring is an essential cost (time, labor, materials) to pay to ensure that the genetic manipulation results in desired phenotypes without CREATING ANY UNINTENDED SECONDARY PHENOTYPES. Just like the FDA requires thorough testing of drugs for the pharmaceutical market, so too should Genetic Engineers be required to grow multiple generations of the crops they engineer and test them to assure they have the desired traits without any undesired ‘tag along’ traits.
Genetic Engineering Risks and Impacts: We do know of ways in which genetically engineered crops could cause health problems. For instance, genes from an allergenic plant could transfer this unwanted trait to the target plant. This phenomenon was documented in 1996, as soybeans with a Brazil nut gene—added to improve their value as animal feed—produced an allergic response in test subjects with Brazil nut allergies. Unintended consequences like these underscore the need for effective regulation of GE products. In the absence of a rigorous approval process, there is nothing to ensure that GE crops that cause health problems will always be identified and kept off the market. Genetically engineered crops can potentially cause environmental problems that result directly from the engineered traits. For instance, an engineered gene may cause a GE crop (or a wild relative of that crop) to become invasive or toxic to wildlife. But the most damaging impact of GE in agriculture so far is the phenomenon of pesticide resistance. Millions of acres of U.S. farmland are now infested by weeds that have become resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. Overuse of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” trait, which is engineered to tolerate the herbicide, has promoted the accelerated development of resistance in several weed species. As the superweed crisis illustrates, current applications of genetic engineering have become a key component of an unsustainable approach to food production: industrial agriculture, with its dependence on monoculture—supported by costly chemical inputs—at the expense of the long-term health and productivity of the farm. A different approach to farming is available—what UCS calls “healthy farms.” This approach is not only more sustainable than industrial agriculture, but often more cost-effective. Yet as long as the marketplace of agricultural products and policies is dominated by the industrial model, prioritizing expensive products over knowledge-based agroecological approaches, healthy farm solutions face an uphill battle. In the case of GE, better solutions include crop breeding (often assisted by molecular biology techniques) and agro-ecological practices such as crop rotation, cover crops, and integrated crop/livestock management.
The US Supreme Court upheld biotech giant Monsanto’s claims on genetically-engineered seed patents and the company’s ability to sue farmers whose fields are inadvertently contaminated with Monsanto materials.
Ultimately, the biggest gamble to the use of GE is a loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity and quantifying and qualifying the differences between species and traits
This is the importance of biodiversity and having seed banks that seek to be all encompassing in their collection of genetic variations.
What is the connection between GE and patenting? Why does the use of GE preclude the depletion of seed banks? Can’t we just do both?
Saving seeds does not erase the risks associated with such direct manipulation of genomes outside of natural methods. And the direct correlation of this negative impact, like many other examples, can be shown through looking at cases in industrialized agriculture. The fallout of patent wars is the loss of national seed banks.
Control by Seed: Modern Iraq is part of the ‘fertile crescent’ of Mesopotamia where man first domesticated wheat between 8,000 and 13,000 years ago, and home to several thousand varieties of local wheat. As soon as the US took over Iraq, it became clear its interests were not limited to oil. Order 81wipe out Iraq’s traditional, sustainable agriculture and replace it with oil-chemical-genetically-modified-seed-based industrial agriculture.henceforth, plant forms could be patented — which was never allowed before — while genetically-modified organisms were to be introduced. Farmers were strictly banned from saving their own seeds: this, in a country where, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 97 per cent of Iraqi farmers planted only their own saved seeds. It meant that the majority of farmers who had never spent money on seed and inputs that came free from nature, would henceforth have to heavily invest in corporate inputs and equipment — or go into debt to obtain them, or accept lowered profits, or give up farming altogether.
So you can not save seeds, you HAVE to buy new seeds. TWB advises saving seeds if you don’t already, and never use any GMO seeds. As well as encourage everyone you know to never use GMO seeds, even if they are free–because there is a big catch to it.
The future not through taxes or laws because corporations want to make money off o them. Just like soy beans and corn,. they regulate it through copyrights and patents and patent law. Protect yourself: organize and care for your seeds.
Here’s some great info on how to be a pro seed banker.
Build your seed catalog through purchase of known and reputable strains
Amongst the 7 things you should know at start up is the strain of seeds and clones makes a huge difference. Starting from seeds on occasion will help to keep your whole operation running smoothly, because mothers will never get too old.
Take it from Organic Gardening on the top 10 tips for storing your seeds.
The spider is the super computer crawling over and identifying the marijuana genome.