Is Industrial Hemp Genetically Modified?

Industrial hemp can be genetically modified just like other crops. Genetic modification involves selective breeding of industrial hemp cultivars to promote positive characteristics and eliminate negative characteristics. This is usually beneficial for large scale farmers as it prevents massive losses that may be the result of inferior characteristics in a hemp cultivar. Also, it helps to boost yields. Genetically modified industrial hemp is also referred to as GMO hemp.

Is Genetically Modified Industrial Hemp Good?

Due to the many years of prohibition of industrial hemp, not much has been achieved in creating industrial hemp GMOs. Traditional cash crops such as corn and soybean GMOs have been developed and refined over the years to create superior genetically modified cultivars.  This helps the breeders to select the best traits such as seed size, plant height, and flowering characteristics. Genetic modification also helps to create uniformity in the canopy as all the plants will have identical characteristics. This makes cultivation and harvesting easier for the farmer.

Genetic modification of plants has been happening since the 1970s. It involves taking genes from a plant with desirable characteristics and inserting it in another plant with weaker genetics. Since then a lot of research and development has gone into improving the process of genetic modification for different cash crops. Industrial hemp is yet to undergo such rigorous development. 

Genetic Modification of Hemp To Eliminate THC

Only a selected few cultivars of industrial hemp have been legalized in the US. For an industrial hemp cultivar to be approved by the US department of agriculture (USDA) it has to contain less than 0.3% THC. You can imagine having to destroy an entire harvest of industrial hemp just because it contains a higher amount of THC; this makes genetic modification very appealing to large scale farmers. 

Removing THC from industrial hemp cultivars can save farmers a lot of potential loses. As it is, industrial hemp farmers must destroy any plants that have a higher amount of THC. The THC amount is what makes the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana which is outlawed in many states. Products manufactured from hemp with more than 0.3% THC are equally outlawed.

So far, there is no industrial hemp cultivar that has been genetically modified to completely knock out THC. But if this can be done it will be a big win for industrial hemp farmers. 

Are Feminized Industrial Hemp Seeds Genetically Modified?

Feminized seeds are cannabis seeds that have been bred selectively to eliminate the male characteristics of the plants. This is genetic modification. 

Feminized seeds are easier to cultivate because they take out the work of pruning and eliminating male plants. Feminized seeds are mostly used for medicinal hemp which requires high cannabinoid levels. Feminized seeds also give higher yields. 

Has the USDA Approved Genetically Modified Industrial Hemp?

As much as it would be good to see THC-free industrial hemp cultivars hitting the stores, this may take some time. The USDA must approve any genetically modified crop before it is released into the market. So far the USDA has not approved genetically modified industrial hemp cultivars. As it stands, this is still a grey area because industrial hemp is missing from their list of approved GMO crops.

Genetic modification is prohibited in all products that have been classified as organic. Farmers that claim to grow organic industrial hemp may not be able to benefit from genetic modification.

However, we may see some changes in the future since industrial hemp is no longer a controlled substance.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of GMO Industrial Hemp?

Genetic engineering has both advantages and disadvantages. One of the key advantages, as mentioned above, is the ability to limit THC to the accepted levels. Another benefit is uniformity in the canopy and higher yields. Lastly, genetic modification makes the plants hardier and less susceptible to pests and diseases. This is of many benefits to a large-scale farmer as it minimizes their exposure to risk.

On the other hand, genetic modification means that the industrial hemp is not organic. GMO crops have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, allergies, and outcrossing.