Are Marijuana seeds threatened by genetic engineering ?
and the Push for Corporate Cannabis
July 07, 2016
California’s “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA) is a voter initiative characterized as legalizing marijuana use.
But critics warn that it will actually make access more difficult and expensive, squeeze home growers and small farmers out of the market, heighten criminal sanctions for violations, and open the door to patented, genetically modified (GMO) versions that must be purchased year after year.
As detailed in Part I above of this article, the health benefits of cannabis are now well established.
It is a cheap, natural alternative effective for a broad range of conditions, and the non-psychoactive form known as hemp has thousands of industrial uses. At one time, cannabis was one of the world’s most important crops.
There have been no recorded deaths from cannabis overdose in the US, compared to about 30,000 deaths annually from alcohol abuse (not counting auto accidents), and 100,000 deaths annually from prescription drugs taken as directed.
Yet cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance (“a deadly dangerous drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse”), illegal to be sold or grown in the US.
Powerful corporate interests no doubt had a hand in keeping cannabis off the market. The question now is why they have suddenly gotten on the bandwagon for its legalization.
According to an April 2014 article in The Washington Times, the big money behind the recent push for legalization has come, not from a grassroots movement, but from a few very wealthy individuals with links to Big Ag and Big Pharma.
Leading the charge is George Soros, a major shareholder in Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and producer of genetically modified seeds.
Monsanto is the biotech giant that brought you,
rBGH (genetically engineered bovine growth hormone)
RoundUp (glyphosate) herbicides
RoundUp Ready crops (seeds genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate)
Monsanto now appears to be developing genetically modified (GMO) forms of cannabis, with the intent of cornering the market with patented GMO seeds just as it did with GMO corn and GMO soybeans.
For that, the plant would need to be legalized but still tightly enough controlled that it could be captured by big corporate interests.
Competition could be suppressed by,
limiting access to homegrown marijuana
bringing production, sale and use within monitored and regulated industry guidelines
legislating a definition of industrial hemp as a plant having such low psychoactivity that only GMO versions qualify
Those are the sorts of conditions that critics have found buried in the fine print of the latest initiatives for cannabis legalization.
Patients who use the cannabis plant in large quantities to heal serious diseases (e.g. by juicing it) find that the natural plant grown organically in sunlight is far more effective than hothouse plants or pharmaceutical cannabis derivatives.
Letitia Pepper is a California attorney and activist who uses medical marijuana to control multiple sclerosis.
As she puts it,
if you don’t have an irrevocable right to grow a natural, therapeutic herb in your backyard that a corporation able to afford high license fees can grow and sell to you at premium prices, isn’t that still a war on people who use marijuana?
Follow the Money to Uruguay
Monsanto has denied that it is working on GMO strains.
But William Engdahl, author of Seeds of Destruction – The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, presents compelling circumstantial evidence to the contrary.
In a March 2014 article titled “The Connection Between the Legalization of Marijuana in Uruguay, Monsanto and George Soros”, Engdahl observes that in 2014, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the cultivation, sale and consumption of marijuana.
Soros is a major player in Uruguay and was instrumental in getting the law passed. He sits on the board of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), the world’s most influential organization for cannabis legalization.
The DPA is active not only in the US but in Uruguay and other Latin American countries.
Studies show that Monsanto without much fanfare conducts research projects on the active ingredient in marijuana, namely THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), in order to genetically manipulate the plant.
David Watson of the Dutch company Hortapharm has since 1990 created the world’s largest collection of Cannabis seed varieties.
In 1998, the British firm GW Pharmaceuticals signed an agreement with Hortapharm that gives GW Pharma the rights to use the Hortapharm cannabis for their research.
In 2003 the German Bayer AG then signed an agreement with GW Pharmaceuticals for joint research on a cannabis-based extract. In 2007, Bayer AG agreed to an exchange of technology with… Monsanto…
Thus Monsanto has discreet access to the work of the cannabis plant and its genetic modification. In 2009 GW Pharmaceuticals announced that it had succeeded in genetically altering a cannabis plant and patented a new breed of cannabis.
Monsanto could have even greater access to the Bayer/GW research soon.
In March 2016, Monsanto approached the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer AG with a joint venture proposal concerning its crop science unit. In May, Bayer then made an unsolicited takeover bid for Monsanto. On May 24th, the $62 billion bid was rejected as too low; but negotiations are continuing.
The prospective merger would create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and chemicals.
Environmentalists worry that the entire farming industry could soon be looking at sterile crops soaked in dangerous pesticides. Monsanto has sued hundreds of farmers for simply saving seeds from year to year, something they have done for millennia.
Organic farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to prevent contamination of their crops by Monsanto’s GMOs.
In Seeds of Destruction, Engdahl quotes Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State.
Kissinger notoriously said,
“Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.”
Engdahl asserts that the “Green Revolution” was part of the Rockefeller agenda to destroy seed diversity and push oil- and gas-based agricultural products in which Rockefeller had a major interest.
Destruction of seed diversity and dependence on proprietary hybrids was the first step in food control. About 75% of the foodstuffs at the grocery store are now genetically manipulated, in what has been called the world’s largest biological experiment on humans.
Genetic engineering is now moving from foodstuffs to plant-based drugs and plant-based industrial fibers.
Engdahl writes of Monsanto’s work in Uruguay:
Since the cultivation of cannabis plants in Uruguay is allowed, one can easily imagine that Monsanto sees a huge new market that the Group is able to control just with patented cannabis seeds such as today is happening on the market for soybeans.
Uruguay’s President Mujica has made it clear he wants a unique genetic code for cannabis in his country in order to “keep the black market under control.”
Genetically modified cannabis seeds from Monsanto would grant such control. For decades Monsanto has been growing gene-soybean and GM maize in Uruguay too.
George Soros is co-owner of agribusinesses Adecoagro, which planted genetically modified soybeans and sunflowers for biofuel.
Other commentators express similar concerns.
Natural health writer Mike Adams warns:
[W]ith the cannabis industry predicted to generate over $13 billion by 2020, becoming one of the largest agricultural markets in the nation, there should be little doubt that companies like Monsanto are simply waiting for Uncle Sam to remove the herb from its current Schedule I classification before getting into the business.
In a 2010 article concerning Proposition 19, an earlier legalization initiative that was defeated by California voters, Conrad Justice Kiczenski noted that criminalization of cannabis as both industrial hemp and medical marijuana has served a multitude of industries, including the prison and military industry, the petroleum, timber, cotton, and pharmaceutical industries, and the banking industry.
With the decriminalization of cannabis, he warned:
The next stage in continuing this control is in the regulation, licensing and taxation of Cannabis cultivation and use through the only practical means available to the corporate system, which is through genetic engineering and patenting of the Cannabis genome.
Behind the War on Weed – Taking Down the World’s Largest Agricultural Crop
The greatest threat to health posed by marijuana seems to come from its criminalization.
Today over 50 percent of inmates in federal prison are there for drug offenses, and marijuana tops the list. Cannabis cannot legally be grown in the US even as hemp, a form with very low psychoactivity.
Why not? The answer seems to have more to do with economic competition and anti -Black fanaticism than with health.
Cannabis is actually one of the oldest domesticated crops, having been grown for industrial and medicinal purposes for millennia.
Until 1883, hemp was also one of the largest agricultural crops (some say the largest). It was the material from which most fabric, soap, fuel, paper and fiber were made.
Before 1937, it was also a component of at least 2,000 medicines.
In early America, it was considered a farmer’s patriotic duty to grow hemp. Cannabis was legal tender in most of the Americas from 1631 until the early 1800s. Americans could even pay their taxes with it.
Benjamin Franklin’s paper mill used cannabis. Hemp crops produce nearly four times as much raw fiber as equivalent tree plantations; and hemp paper is finer, stronger and lasts longer than wood-based paper. Hemp was also an essential resource for any country with a shipping industry, since it was the material from which sails and rope were made.
Today hemp is legally grown for industrial use in hundreds of countries outside the US.
A 1938 article in Popular Mechanics claimed it was a billion-dollar crop (the equivalent of about $16 billion today), useful in 25,000 products ranging from dynamite to cellophane.
New uses continue to be found.
Claims include eliminating smog from fuels, creating a cleaner energy source that can replace nuclear power, removing radioactive water from the soil, eliminating deforestation, and providing a very nutritious food source for humans and animals.
To powerful competitors, the plant’s myriad uses seem to have been the problem.
Cannabis competed with,
the lumber industry
the oil industry
the cotton industry
the petrochemical industry
the pharmaceutical industry
In the 1930s, the plant in all its forms came under attack.
Its demonization accompanied the demonization of Mexican immigrants, who were then flooding over the border and were widely perceived to be a threat. Pot smoking was part of their indigenous culture.
Harry Anslinger, called “the father of the war on weed,” was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, a predecessor to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
He fully embraces anti-Black fanaticism as a tool for demonizing marijuana.
He made such comments as,
“marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others,” and “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
In 1937, sensational anti-Black fanatic claims like these caused recreational marijuana to be banned; and industrial hemp was banned with it.
Classification as a Schedule I controlled substance came in the 1970s, with President Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs. The Shafer Commission, tasked with giving a final report, recommended against the classification; but Nixon ignored the commission.
According to an April 2016 article in Harper’s Magazine, the War on Drugs had political motives.
Top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman is quoted as saying in a 1994 interview:
The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies:
the antiwar left
We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.
We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.
Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.