plant microscopy

Genetically Modified Cannabis

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms are a topic of contention and controversy in modern agriculture. For cannabis, the technology, ethics, and implications of Genetic Modification can have an impact on future production. Cannabis products show remarkable growth and acceptance into the mainstream. It is important to understand the impacts that GM crops may have on both the environment and on human health.

WHAT IS GMO?

Both traditional plant breeders and genetic engineers work with the aim of introducing desirable traits. Agriculturally, this typically means resistance to herbicides, pesticides and unsuitable conditions improving quality of crop. These are desirable traits that make harvests more robust and easier to grow.

While Traditional Breeding is done via fertilization, GMO are done using Biotechnological Techniques that physically move genes from one organism to another. GMO is not limited to naturally occurring traits within the species’ gene pool.

Traditional process allows for the unregulated exchange of genes; today’s labs are ready to more precisely manipulate strain genetics. The move towards precision and exacting control of genetic modification can allow companies to scale while producing consistent products.

The organism which receives a gene and the biological lab process of these modifications can be described as transgenic. Numurus transgenic techniques that have been developed over the years as modern biotechnology and scientific understanding of gene expression and gene mechanics.

It is important to know that some argue that the risks far outweigh the benefits in this equation.

Why Use GMO? 

Genetic engineering has advantages. The technique allows for traits to be introduced into a gene pool without complications and with complete technical control in sterile laboratory conditions. There are scientific capabilities to incorporate genes across unrelated species since all life share the same genetic building blocks and can be manipulated similarly at that subcellular level.

Are there Genetic Modifications for Cannabis?

Genetically modified organisms are hugely applicable across a number of disciplines with the same general targets: increasing crop yield, decreasing the cost of production, increasing pest resistance, decreasing maturation time, and increasing environmental tolerance to environmental stressors. Genetically modified cannabis can include new strains. Some research has been done on cannabinoid producing algae. 

Are Genetically Modified Organisms Safe?

Foreign genetic alterations can result in unintended consequences.

Altered organisms can present significant changes in its metabolism, growth rate, and response to environmental factors. Not only can genetic alteration affect the genetically modified organism itself, but also has far-reaching implications upon the habitat, from ingestion to surroundings . The risks associated with genetic manipulations are generally categorized in two main branches: human health and environment.

How do Genetic modifications affect Humans?

There are specific systems in place for evaluation of GM organisms and their effects. The tests focus on assessing toxicity, allergenicity and stability of the inserted gene, additionally, the nutritional effects of the gene modification upon the crop is evaluated. While not directly toxic to human health, the immediate and long-term consequences are of concern. Public exposure to new allergens found in the GM crop via potential transfer of antibiotic-resistance during digestion, inhalation or absorption should be considered amongst associated potential risks to human health.

What are the Effects on the Environment?

Releasing genetically modified organisms can directly affect Wild Populations by mixing with the wild types through a process known as outcrossing. Such outcrossing can affect the surrounding environment and species can potentially threaten the viability of the wild cohort and influence other natural populations within the ecosystem. 

superweeds and superbugs are evolved in response to the increase in herbicide-resistant crops. They are much more difficult to manage, and usually result in increased chemical pesticide.

Are GMOs Currently Used?

At present, the number of genetically modified organisms under development and in production is steadily rising. This is a result of the scientific community’s improved understanding of Gene Expression Systems and manipulations; including improved laboratory techniques, tools for sequencing whole genomes and processes for cloning or transferring genes.

There is no doubt that this list of successful scientific and technical progress is crucial to improving global health, science, medicine, and research overall, but as such technologies and techniques continue to become more sophisticated and more varied, the associated applications and effects must be considered.

Should Genetic Modification be used?

Once GMOs are released into the environment, their effects cannot be recalled. While we weigh the potential benefits of decreased agricultural prices and increased nutritional gains, it is paramount to compare these to the potential risks involved and determine which route the industry should pursue. Fellow cannabis cultivators, scientists and advocates, what is your determination?

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