Many nations are now preserving cannabis genetics to help ensure medicinal benefits long into the future.
The agricultural revolution is thirteen thousand years old, and the good news is that we’ve already started banking our gains. That’s right – far from any conflict areas, and deep in the Arctic circle, is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It’s here that scientists are preserving the genetics of many species against global catastrophe – including cannabis.
Being just one thousand kilometers from the North Pole, it’s a location that scientists hope will be less affected by the effects of climate change and natural disasters. As a further precaution, the seed vault is buried in the side of a mountain at an altitude where rising seas can’t reach, even if all the world’s ice should melt.
Tunnels extend down into the permafrost, where vaults house the blueprints of our gains in manipulating mother nature over millennia. With the ability to store up to 2.5 billion seeds, it assures humankind the ability to start over, should a doomsday scenario ever arrive.
Further, the good news for cannabis consumers is that in addition to thousands of varieties of rice, spelt, and wheat, some of the underlying genetics of many prominent cannabis chemovars are also safely secured in the Arctic permafrost.
Preserving Cannabis Genetics
The searchable database on their site shows sixty separate deposits of cannabis seeds, each averaging several hundred each. The vault even includes seed deposits from North Korea—a country with a surprisingly long relationship with the hemp plant. Legalization is unlikely to be on the mind of Kim Jong-un. But still, his country deposited five hundred seeds of a Cannabis Sativa landrace cultivar into the seed bank.
While the Svalbard Global Seed Vault virtually assures the preservation of seeds in the event of an apocalypse, many other seed banks exist around the globe, where growers can purchase their favorite genetics. In such places, passionate breeders and sellers store the genetics of many thousands of cannabis cultivars in conditions suited to their long-term preservation. While these seed banks may not guarantee the survival of the genetics in the event of a cataclysm, they remain sealed from air, and devoid of exposure to heat, light, and humidity, to ensure that their ability to germinate remains intact for many years.
Why Should Consumers Care About Preserving Cannabis Genetics?
Many cannabis consumers shy away from ancient varieties of cannabis. Instead, they focus their energy on those modern cultivars high in THC and CBD. But the fact of the matter is that without the underlying genetics of ancient landrace varieties, none of the modern favorites would be possible.
Why Preserve Landrace Varieties of Cannabis?
Landrace varieties are those that evolved in the wild, sculpted by mother nature to meet the unique demands of the surrounding environment. They grow across much of the globe. They’re found anywhere from the sides of African mountains to the arid, rocky, soils across Central Asia.
Preserving them may well be the best thing that we can do to ensure the viability of the cannabis plant as medicine in the future. Additionally, landrace varieties represent the wild-gene-pool for breeding; and these genes are essential in the development of new cultivars of cannabis. Breeders can’t create copies of existing plants ad infinitum. At some point, creating a copy of a copy exacerbartes flaws. This causes disease, and eventually forces breeders to start over with clean genetics.
Preserving Future Medicinal Value
Years of prohibition mean that cannabis has never received the scientific study it warrants. Consequently, throughout the decades, breeders focused on high THC content, and almost nothing else. They gave little regard or understanding to the role played by minor plant compounds.
Experts argue that landrace genetics hold the key to exploiting many of these potential benefits. One example includes the above-average content of the cannabinoid THCV found in African landrace varieties.
Evidence suggests that THCV may help with appetite suppression, blood sugar regulation for type 2 diabetes, suppression of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and stimulation of bone growth. Further, a study published in Nutrition and Diabetes (2013) analyzed the role of THCV on blood sugar levels. Further, the researchers determined that THCV may be a potential treatment of the “obesity-associated glucose intolerance” endemic to much of Western society.Wargent, E. T., Zaibi, M. S., Silvestri, C., Hislop, D. C., Stocker, C. J., Stott, C. G., Guy, G. W., Duncan, M., Di Marzo, V., & Cawthorne, M. A. (2013). The cannabinoid … Continue reading
It’s these underlying genetics that help ensure more potent levels of such cannabinoids. Basically, without preserving landrace genetics, the risk of inadvertently losing such beneficial properties increases greatly.
The Ethical Debate Around Seed Vaults
Many landrace seeds come from those passionate souls who venture out into remote locations in far off corners of the globe to track them down. But upon finding a new landrace variety, they often practice something known as seed swapping. Basically, this is where the seed hunters provide native farmers with samples of their seeds – in return for the landrace seeds.
An ethical debate quickly arises out of this transaction. Although it may be an even trade for the locals, the introduction of these new varieties into remote landrace cultivation “muddies the waters” so to speak. The cross pollination that inevitably results can alter the local landraces forever. Not only that – it’s also almost impossible to know which once pure genetics are now tainted by the manipulated varieties.
Accordingly, this fact alone should serve to highlight the need for secure storage of all landrace genetics.
As these founding genetics become more diluted by the alchemy of a globalized society, the act of preserving cannabis genetics becomes markedly more important. It ensures we can hit the reset button should the need arise. So should the apocalypse arrive unexpectedly, then rest assured. We have a landrace stash buried in the Arctic permafrost that’ll get us going again!
|↑1||Wargent, E. T., Zaibi, M. S., Silvestri, C., Hislop, D. C., Stocker, C. J., Stott, C. G., Guy, G. W., Duncan, M., Di Marzo, V., & Cawthorne, M. A. (2013). The cannabinoid Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) ameliorates insulin sensitivity in two mouse models of obesity. Nutrition & diabetes, 3(5), e68. https://doi.org/10.1038/nutd.2013.9|