GENETICALLY MODIFIED PLANTS
Genetically modified (or GM) plants have attracted a large amount of media attention in recent years and continue to do so. Despite this, the general public remains largely unaware of what a GM plant actually is or what advantages and disadvantages the technology has to offer, particularly with regard to the range of applications for which they can be used. From the first generation of GM crops, two main areas of concern have emerged, namely risk to the environment and risk to human health. As GM plants are gradually being introduced into the European Union there is likely to be increasing public concern regarding potential health issues. Although it is now commonplace for the press to adopt ‘health campaigns’, the information they publish is often unreliable and unrepresentative of the available scientific evidence. We consider it important that the medical profession should be aware of the state of the art, and, as they are often the first port of call for a concerned patient, be in a position to provide an informed opinion.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED TOMATOES:
The tomato has been a symbol for genetically modified food for many years. In 1994, genetically modified tomatoes hit the market in the US as the first commercially available genetically modified crop. GM tomatoes have since disappeared.
These GM tomatoes, however, did not meet their expectations. Although they were approved in the US and several other countries, tomatoes with delayed ripening have disappeared from the market after peaking in 1998. At this point, no tomatoes are being grown commercially in North America or in Europe.
Genetically modified tomatoes are not approved in Europe. Applications that were submitted several years ago have since been withdrawn.
Tomato puree made from GM tomatoes was a big success in the mid-90s in Great Britain. The fact that the tomatoes were of GM origin was clearly stated on the label. Later, an application was submitted for approval according to EU laws on genetic engineering. Although EU committees of scientific experts assessed the tomato puree as harmless, Member States could not come to an agreement. The application was withdrawn in 2002.
Scientists are still working with genetic tools to give tomatoes new traits like resistance to insect pests and fungal and viral pathogens. Other projects aim to enrich tomatoes with substances offering health benefits. All of these products, however, are still many steps away from receiving authorization.
Today in the EU, all tomatoes found on the market, whether they’re fresh or canned, are not genetically modified. Even the tomato that stayed red and firm after three weeks in the fridge isn’t a GMO.
Genetically Modified Cannabis:
What could be achieved if cannabis could be genetically modified? Who would have the cash to do such a thing…and why?
The first people I expect to create GM cannabis are the pharmaceutical companies, they have the cash to make it happen. They are on the crest of a wave as medical marijuana begins to enter mainstream medicine. At the moment this market has an annual value worth just tens of €millions but this market will grow exponentially, in a few years I expect the pharmaceutical market for cannabis medicines will be worth literally billions as cannabis starts finding its way into mainstream treatment for pain relief, MS, epilepsy, sleep problems, depression, cancer treatment etc. GM cannabis could be created to grow into large ‘tree’ style plants that may be able to yield insane harvest quantities perhaps over several years. The mind boggles. Yet realistically GM cannabis will be tried if, and when, the pharmaceutical companies start realizing the true financial pharmaceutical potential for ganja.
Pharmaceutical companies will feel they have to convince everyone that the benefits of their particular marijuana medicine can’t be achieved with normal weed. Some of the drug companies will shy away from involvement fearing that medical marijuana may actually cut company profits as it eats into existing premium-priced medicine markets. But ignoring a new emerging market is never a smart way to deal with it in a free market economy. ‘Sooner or later someone will exploit and dominate the medical marijuana market so it may as well be us’, the pharma companies will conclude. By embracing medical marijuana they can grow their own raw materials and use the various active ingredients in different combinations for different medicines. It is the ultimate business model, one raw ingredient that is easy and cheap to farm and multiple medical products, all with very few costs.
But recently a company named Monsanto Company which is a publicly traded American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve, Greater St. Louis, Missouri. It is a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and Roundup, stated that they have created the world’s first genetically-modified strain of marijuana.
Although Monsanto’s testing on cannabis is only at an experimental stage, no plan has yet been released by the agriculture business firm as to what purposes the patented strain would be used for, although specialists believe answers should come this fall as rumors of a controversial new bill which could “loosen up laws around medical marijuana” is reportedly scheduled to pass before congress coming this fall.
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So perhaps we will see genetically modified cannabis in the not-too-distant future. I think it will take 5 years before they build up the courage to announce plans to try it, and another 5 years before they show us the results. I am sure the medical marijuana movement will be involved in a very big way, but have you ever wondered what the implications and experiences might be for the recreational stoner? Could GM cannabis give you radically different weed to that which we enjoy today? Maybe weed that doesn’t stink when you grow it, or weed with a quite different buzz? As crazy as these questions seem, I reckon one day very soon they will be asked for real.