The Discovery of the Cannabis GenomeWhile scientific discoveries in the cannabis industry are still in their infancy stage, the discovery of the cannabis genome map has the potential to impact the entire seed-to-sale industry and beyond.
Earlier this year, at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference in San Diego, Sunrise Genetics presented the first-ever complete mapping of the cannabis genome. This comprehensive picture of the complete genome, composed of 10 pairs of chromosomes, is a tremendous achievement for cannabis industry not only because of the scientific advancement but with it comes the potential to improve multiple aspects of the industry and allow for a deeper knowledge of the product.
The Need for Genetic Mapping
Today, most big agricultural businesses use genetic mapping to ensure that they are producing desired products in the most efficient and effective ways. As far as scientific advancements in agricultural practices go, cannabis is slow to progress. Due to the strict research constraints within the cannabis industry, scientific advancements have only just started to emerge, opening up a world of possibility and opportunity for improvement within the industry.
Current cultivation methods practiced throughout the industry are not seen as being the most efficient; they are time-consuming, costly, and make no guarantee of the actual end product. Cloning exposes crops to hazards such as transferring health issues, and the uncertainty of purchasing clones brings added risk to the cultivator and crop. In addition to clones being mislabeled, purchasing clones does not guarantee that they are healthy or will produce a sellable product. Often, when clones and seeds are purchased, cultivators are not able to recognize these risks until time and resources have been put into their production.
This issue has also posed challenges for the end-user. At the surface, there is the initial problem of strain names and what they mean. Not only do consumers have to decipher the components in a name (Kush, Cheese, Diesel, OG), but also, cultivators may market strains under rogue names, leaving the consumer clueless as to the actual lineage or effects. The varied genetics of cannabis within the industry today often produce unpredictable experiences. As a market that is largely medicinal, there is also the issue of not being able to consistently reproduce a product that a patient has come to depend on for treatment.
How Genetic Breeding can Improve and Elevate the Industry
Although the aforementioned concerns are currently seen throughout the industry, they should not be looked at as any cause to discredit the industry. It just means, that there is room for improvement and growth within the industry, and cannabis is very much on that curve. The mapping of the cannabis genome could have a huge impact on the entire industry and will bring knowledge and transparency through the continued discovery of the genetic lineage of cannabis.
Incorporating genetic sequencing into cannabis cultivation has the potential to reduce costs as well as produce consistent crops that are bred with the most desired genetics. By genetically breeding crops, strains can be inbred to their greatest potential by eliminating unwanted characteristics and lineage. When cross-bred, there is no limit to the advanced strains and potential effects that may be discovered. Having access to and understanding the cannabis genome makes it easier to test for strain continuity and produce targeted products. For too long, guesswork, as well as trial and error, have played too large a role in cultivation practices. Introducing genetic mapping into the industry would serve as a point of proof by providing evidence of lineage.
As for the end-user, the benefits of genome mapping are twofold. First, there is the certainty of the product. With the understanding that each person’s genetic makeup is different, therefore their reactions to cannabis vary, knowing the genetic makeup of the product means knowing that much more about the effects. By understanding what genes control what traits, cultivators and breeders will be able to produce products with more consistent effects. Effects will become more consistent as products become more consistent. Consumers will be able to have the confidence that the Purple Kush they purchased from two different dispensaries will actually be Purple Kush and induce similar effects.
The Future of the Genome Project
Now that the cannabis genome has been discovered, the path to learning its potential has only just begun. According to a recent Sunrise Genetics press release, the goal is to get the genome map published on public domain in the next year, allowing it to become a public resource and tool for cultivators and breeders. The discovery and implementation of genome mapping is the instrument by which we will gain a better understanding of cannabis genetics and unleash its full potential.