USDA approves new hemp variety genetically modified to lower THC content

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a hemp variety genetically engineered to produce super-low levels of THC.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently reviewed the hemp cultivar, developed by Growing Together Research (GTR), Inc., Fort Wayne, Indiana, finding it “unlikely” to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to other hemp varieties, and that it therefore may be safely multiplied and grown in the United States.

Low CBC too

The modified hemp shows highly reduced levels of both THC and cannabichromene (CBC), a minor cannabinoid also present in hemp, according to USDA.

The company used genes from multiple donor organisms, including plants, bacteria, a virus, and at least one artificial sequence, in developing the variety. In addition to all but eliminating THC and CBC in the plants, the changes are intended to boost resistance to the herbicide bialaphos, GTR said.

THC has sometimes been a problem for farmers because plants that go over the federal limit of 0.3% THC must be destroyed in some states, or producers must go through an expensive process of mitigation where states allow reduction measures.

Guarding against pests

The APHIS review process identifies those pests that are likely to remain on a commodity when it is imported into the United States and evaluates the mitigations that may be required to eliminate them from being introduced into the country.

The agency said that while the newly created hemp variety is not subject to rules that regulate the movement of genetically modified organisms, it may be subject to permitting or quarantine requirements.

In addition to its efforts to develop THC-free hemp cultivars, GTR said it is working to increase THC production in marijuana plants.

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