Why We Must Ban GM Cannabis
By David Malmo-Levine
For those who pay attention to the history of medicine, it is clear that cannabis has been one of the major raw materials - if not THE major raw material - and one of the major medicines - if not THE major medicine - of humanity.
And for those who pay attention to the history of cannabis economics, it is clear that throughout human history there has always been a small minority of people who attempt to justify exclusive distribution rights of this raw material and medicine.
The latest version of this attempt is genetically modified cannabis. “Genetic modification” - also called “GM," "genetically modified organisms," “GMO” and "transgenic" - is a process by which genes from one living thing are spliced together with another, in a manner that nature would not allow to occur on its own – as opposed to “breeding," which is speeding up a natural selection process with human selection but still limited to what could possibly happen over time in nature.
There is no consensus in the scientific community that genetically modifying a plant helps farmers increase their yield in any way or that GM crops are safe for human consumption or environmentally friendly or pose no threat to global food security, but nearly everyone agrees that it does allow a monopoly on the selling of that particular seed, allows the producers to justify a patent, and allows those who hold the patent to sue those who grow the plants without paying for the seeds - even if the GM pollen drifted onto the field of the farmer in question.
Up here in Canada we’ve seen how a farmer’s rights to collect and replant their own seed has been totally destroyed by the courts, who sided with Monsanto. Take the highly publicized case or Percy Schmeiser, a farmer from Bruno, Saskatchewan who specializes in breeding and growing canola. He became an international symbol and spokesperson for independent farmers' rights and the regulation of transgenic crops during his protracted legal battle with Monsanto Company. He was the subject of the 1999 film, David Versus Monsanto.
In 1997, Monsanto's genetically modified Roundup Ready Canola plants were found in Schmeiser's field. Before planting his 1998 crop, Schmeiser was informed that Monsanto believed he had grown Roundup Ready canola in 1997. In the summer of 1998, the canola in Schmeiser's fields was found to be Roundup Ready canola. Monsanto subsequenty sued Schmeiser for patent infringement. Ultimately, a Supreme Court 5-4 ruling found in favor of Monsanto - that their patent was valid and there was infringement. The publicity around the case focused on whether Monsanto would be held responsible for “genetic engineering crop contamination." This issue was, not considered by the courts. The patent infringement finding was based solely on the determination that Schmeiser had recognized the cross-contamination, and knowingly went on to collect the crossbred seed, then replant and harvest it the next year. No punitive damages or the costs of the technology use fee were awarded to Monsanto, as the Supreme Court also ruled 9-0 in Schmeiser's favor that his profits were exactly the same with or without the presence of the Roundup Ready Canola.”
Schmeiser said of his battle with Monsanto: "Farmers should be concerned about this judgment as they now may lose their ability to continue with this practice. I believe that this ruling is an injustice and Parliament must act to ensure that farmers' rights are protected. The playing field between farmer rights and the bio-tech companies rights has been tilted towards the companies with this decision."
Monsanto introduced GM crops to the United States back in 1996. The largest share by far of the GMO crops planted globally are owned by Monsanto, which holds at least 70% market share for most major GM crop seeds.
The first mention of the possibility of cannabis being genetically modified I could find was cited in a document leaked to Cannabis Culture back in 2000, which read in part: "Cannabis seeds from Monsanto are almost definitely genetically engineered. Genetically engineered plants can be patented, and it is in Monsanto's best interest to hold a patent on any seed they sell. Seed patents ensure that companies like Monsanto can continue to profit from seeds from year to year, as farmers are legally bound to buy patented seeds from the patent holder rather than simply store them from the last year's crop.”
The Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012 does not ban GM cannabis, but rather one of its stated goals is to “make cannabis available for scientific, medical, industrial,and research purposes."
The Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act of 2012 (RMLW) will ban GM cannabis completely. Read the wording closely and see if you can find any wiggle room that would allow any corporation to grow GM cannabis:
“Experimentation, development, research, testing, cultivation, sales or possession of genetically-modified (GMO) marijuana, hemp and its seeds shall be banned throughout the state of California.”
Once it is in place, it will take another initiative to "unban" GM cannabis in California, and such an “unbanning” would be unlikely to appeal to voters.
It is vitally important that RMLW passes to: 1) prevent Monsanto from taking over the cannabis industry in the same way they’ve taken over many other crops (and perhaps hold the human race hostage by controlling the entire food supply); 2) maintain the genetic integrity of the plant; 3) protect the cannabis farmer from artificial dependence (not to mention the destruction of their livelihood); 4) prevent a “Roundup Ready” version of cannabis being developed that will allow even more massive amounts of herbicides to kill the soil microbes and poison the consumers of hemp seed; 5) decrease the quality and the yield of cannabis products, not least of which being the medicinal constituents; and 6) set a good example for other U.S. states and other countries to follow.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
For those who would like to learn more about genetic modification, I suggest checking out the films, The World According to Monsanto and The Corporation - it's as a good crash-course introduction about GM. When watching the GM segments of each film, try and picture what would happen to the cannabis farmer and the cannabis consumer if it was them - and not the soy or corn or rice farmer or consumer - suffering from the scourge of GM.
The RMLW petition drive begins Nov. 1. If you'd like to help out, please contact us here: http://regulatemarijuanalikewine.com/contact/
David Malmo-Levine is one of the authors of RMLW and is a longtime contributor to Cannabis Culture
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