GMO Cannabis is Making Big Pharma A Lot of Money - RxLeaf

GMO Cannabis is Making Big Pharma A Lot of Money

Emily Robertson
cannabis, researchers, GMOs, yeast, yeast fermentation, genetic modification, DNA, cannabinoids, CBD, THC

Big Pharma creates GMO cannabis in order to invent a situation that would allow them to patent parts of a plant. Is there a good side to this technology?

With more and more evidence that cannabis is good medicine for a multitude of disorders and disease, corporate investors and Big Pharma are stepping in for their cut. And these entities are turning to science, and GMO cannabis to pave the way for patents and profit. Things are getting kind of weird with cannabinoids coming from substrates that shouldn’t even be able to make cannabinoids. Is this a medical boon for patients or a Big Pharma perversion of nature?

cannabis, test tubes, research, GMOs, Big Pharma, cannabinoids, genetic modification, DNA, yeast, yeast fermentation, CBD, THC

Image credit: Mitch M

How to Get a Patent on ‘Cannabis’ Medicine

Since you are not allowed to patent a plant, Montreal-based, Hyasynth Biologicals is working toward creating cannabinoids from genes that have been synthesized outside of the cannabis plant. The ultimate goal? To get a patent that can then be used to find different ways to make money off recreational consumption and new types of medicine.

Once a GMO cannabis product is patented, the company will have a monopoly over its genetics for the next 20 years. Which means, big time profit. In that time, labs can work with the genes to create new products, new synthetic compounds, new ways to manufacture, and then re-manufacture GMO cannabis. The ultimate end game is a patented product that can be grown in high volume with maximum efficiency.

cannabis, yeast, GMOs, cannabis plants, DNA, genetic modification, Big Pharma, corporate money, cannabinoids, CBD, THC

Image credit: Rattiya Thongdumhyu

Genetically Modified Yeast Creates Cannabinoids

Hyasynth, has successfully made the  cannabinoid,  cannabigerol (CBG), from genetically engineered yeast. CBG is known as the “mother of cannabinoids” as it is the chemical precursor for all other cannabinoids. Other biotech companies, like Anandia Labs, have modified yeast to produce different cannabinoids, such as THC.
The process works by inserting cannabis genes into the yeast. This instructs the yeast to make enzymes that then create cannabinoids. The final product is a GMO cannabis product. The yeast is genetically modified to make cannabis molecules instead of its own molecules. Due to its chemical pliability and short life cycle, yeast is frequently used to create extracts for pharmaceutical development.
cannabis, researchers, GMOs, yeast, yeast fermentation, genetic modification, DNA, cannabinoids, CBD, THC

Image credit: LightField Studios

Synthesized Cannabinoids Are Cheaper to Make Than The Real Thing

Some might wonder why anyone would want to mess with a good thing. Why not just use the plant?

But, large corporations are looking at the best ways to make money and produce more product than is possible from farmland, greenhouses, and waiting for completion of a plant life cycle. These are also always looking to own the biotech in order to maximize profit; again, you can’t patent a plant. But, you can create pieces of GMO cannabis and patent that.

cannabis, cannabis plants, yeast, yeast fermentation, DNA, genetic modification, cannabinoids, CBD, THC, research, Big Pharma

Image credit: Soru Epotok

Sounds Scary, But GMO Organisms Do Help Us

‘Transgenic’ organisms (GMOs), like the yeast that makes cannabinoids, have been spliced with genetic material from other types of organisms. This will be done for a variety of reasons, some of which we definitely use everyday: the study of disease in animal models, drought resistance in plants, pest-resistance in crops, and medicine production.

Organisms undergo genetic drift in nature to become “genetically modified” as a species. It’s called evolution. What alarms people, is the manipulation of this natural selection process to combine different species (such as cannabis and yeast). The unintended consequences can create unforeseen calamity, such as food security issues when a singular pest wipes out mono-crops.

cannabis, yeast, yeast fermentation, CBD, THC, cannabinoids, research, GMO, DNA, genetic modification, corn

Image credit: PhotographyByMK

Concerns About GMO Cannabis

One of the biggest concerns with the product is that these companies maintain a monopoly for twenty years. They make money, and prevent smaller, artisanal companies from working with the compounds they’ve created. This is an overarching concern about pharmaceutical patents altogether.

Secondly, there are the concerns of the cannabis community as to the unnaturalness of the final product. The whole point of pushing for legalization of cannabis is to have access to cannabis medicine, to have the choice to move away from chemical medicines with harsh and dangerous side effects.

cannabis, Epidiolex, Big Pharma, CBD, THC, cannabinoids, yeast, yeast fermentation, DNA, GMOs, genetic modification

Image credit: WSLS 10 News

Cannabis medicine should be available to all people. If it were so, perhaps we wouldn’t balk so much about Big Pharma being allowed to modify our medicine and sell it back to us. Should companies be allowed to patent their research efforts?

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

No Comments

Post a Comment