Israeli researchers say they have detected a successful “genome editing event” in the cannabis plant, signaling the advent of GMO for cultivation. The development came during an R&D initiative by researchers at Givat Hen, Israel-based CanBreed that is intended to develop Powdery Mildew resistance in cannabis crops.
The research team applied breakthrough CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology to detect the genome editing event. Developers of CRISPR-Cas9 earned a Nobel Prize in chemistry this year. Genome editing lets scientists alter DNA to change physical traits — in plants often involving disease risk. Scientists use different technologies to do this.
“Such developments will enable CanBreed to provide cannabis cultivators with the much-needed solution of uniform and enhanced cannabis plants that will pave the road to the standardization of the industry,” said CanBreed’s CEO, Ido Margalit. It will result in improved agronomical traits that can make cannabis farming more affordable and sustainable, and more standardized raw materials for medical products, according to CanBreed.
For large-scale growing
Genetic modifications can improve profitability in both hemp and recreational and medical marijuana crops through the development of plants suitable for large scale, high-quality farming operations, CanBreed said.
Cannabis plants have historically been modified by selective breeding. CanBreed said this is the first time a commercial company has successfully edited the cannabis plant. CanBreed last August secured a commercial license to the foundational CRISPR-Cas9 patents from the patent holders – Corteva Biosciences (Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT) and Broad Institute (Harvard Universities), in the USA.
The announcement comes after three years of research by CanBreed’s R&D team, which comprises geneticists, molecular biologists and agronomists from leading research institutes and seed companies in Israel.
What is CRISPR?
The CRISPR gene editing tool, introduced in 2012, has revolutionized biology research, making it easier to study disease and faster to discover drugs. The technology is also significantly impacting the development of crops, foods, and industrial fermentation processes. Development of the technique earned scientists Jennifer Doudna, an American, and Emmanuelle Charpentier of France the Nobel Prize in chemistry in this year.
CanBreed has applied for a number of patent applications which cover some of the most essential agronomical traits in cannabis, such as a resistance to Powdery Mildew (one of the most common and acute diseases in cannabis cultivation) and achieving flowering independent of daylight length.