CANNABIS CULTURE – European seed banks are churning out dozens of new strains every year, but soon they’ll have to face a market revolution brought by legalization. As prohibition is dying, the game is changing, and the new players have means to dominate the game with government-friendly corporate culture.
There were probably never as many options for cannabis growers as there are right now. New seed banks are springing up like mushrooms, and their catalogues list way too much stuff to wrap one’s head around. “So many strains, so little time”, as the popular saying goes.
But in this time of prosperity, seed vendors, who managed to lodge their brand in customers’ consciousness, have to face a nascent danger for their business looming on the horizon, that comes from fully legit Canadian enterprises such as Aurora Cannabis, Canopy Growth and Tilray.
They don’t waste time, and have already bought a few important biotech firms such as Anandia Laboratories to develop new cannabis strains, that’ll give them competitive edge in the market dominated so far by wild genetics.
Stabilized seeds are absolutely a reasonable alternative to clone cutting and mother rooms, but it requires a scale and market maturity, that doesn’t really exist today.
As with other crops, growing from seed has significant cost, pest mitigation, and infrastructure advantages.
“The costs and time associated with stabilizing a large bundle of advantageous traits that would work for cultivation at all levels are significant, but the future”, says Nishan Karassik, Chief Innovation Officer at Phylos Bioscience.
So how it’s gonna work out in the long term is very hard to say, but as with everything else, those who can get a grasp on the future first, will have a serious edge once all pieces are in place.
But these are the moves, which come hand in hand with legalization in Canada, Uruguay, and those states of the USA, which decided to adopt recreational weed (10 as of now). And let’s not forget medical cannabis revolution, sweeping through South American and EU countries, with at least a few being only a step away from full legalization.
Yes, the suits have been much quicker to go for the cake, than any pothead had ever suspected. Certainly, we knew there would be new money coming in droves into, what is now dubbed “the industry” (and just a couple of years ago was called “organised crime”), but I don’t think that many were able to see the big picture.
This is confirmed by Alan Dronkers, Head of Breeding at Sensi Seeds who says: “We see huge changes not only for the EU but worldwide developments that affect developments at our company. Especially new markets and new applications of our genetics.” Dronkers adds, “that there is no other conclusion, that the change is everywhere, and it is a fast change now.”
The truth is, that in a couple of years there might be thick crowd of slick Wall Street types running the show with hand-picked CEOs from biotech companies and hedge funds at their flank, who’ll legitimize the burgeoning industry in the eyes of establishment. And no, most of them will never try weed. They’ll be in it for the other kind of green.
But so far growing your own is legal both in Canada, and in many states of US, which means people who’ve been doing it for years for pure love of the plant, can at least get by without paying steep taxes. Similarly, the hope of artisan cannabis stays within micro cultivation compliance, which after all is better than kick in the balls.
But the shift is huge, and it’s gonna have irrevocable consequences. Particularly, for seed banks and nurseries, which have been operating in the shadows for decades with very few prying eyes, save for the growers themselves.
As cannabis comes into the bright light (pun intended), it becomes an agricultural/medical commodity, which translates into more scrutiny, more control and more restrictions. And this can’t be seen as a bad thing only.
After all, you’re done with smoking shit, that was sprayed with every toxic pesticide and fungicide imaginable, you don’t risk inhaling molds and other pathogens, that can be a serious risk for some consumers, and you know that you’re getting 15% THC, when before your homie was telling you: “I’m telling you, bro. This shit will knock out a camel”.
On the other hand, you have to pay for all this comfort in taxes, and that means meeting the ask. And if you can’t find a bud, that satisfies your taste or tolerance, then there’s nothing you can do, except growing your favorite plant yourself. Yeah, it might’ve been better, it might’ve been worse, but ultimately it is what it is!
However, how are you gonna feel if you can’t grow your favorite strain LEGALLY anymore, cause the only legal seeds on sale now are those offered by E Corp, and they run only one variety… maybe two? Or worse, you can still buy it, but your favorite vendor has been outlawed to Mars in the meantime, and now his lines are E-Corp’s lines?
And this is what might happen very soon due to enforcement of intellectual property laws, that are very hard to game for small players, but are quite easy to take an advantage of for quickly growing cannabis corporations such as Aurora, which acquired Anandia Labs, one of the most established cannabis research centers in Canada, for this very reason.
Interviewed by Financial Post, Greg Baute, director of Breeding and Genetics at Anandia, who’s made a leap there straight outta Monsanto, confirmed that cannabis plant „is so huge it’s hard to even quantify”.
And it’s hard to argue with that, cause technically sky is the limit, especially when „overpopulated” EU countries with big weed appetite such as Germany, Italy and France start to legalize, which is why Canadian companies are already there building ops, that soon will grow tonnes of buds every month.
And this is enough of reason for biotech industry to jump into cannabis right now! They know they have a long way ahead of them, and they don’t have a head start, but they’re gonna make it up easily with millions they’re making in the stock market.
Have you ever heard of stock market? The place where caffeinated/coked up bunch of money chasers keeps trading digits for digits? As much as some of the Dutch and Spanish seed banks would like to go public to spread the wings, they can’t, cause they’re participating in an half-legal enterprise at best, while Canadian companies are fully legit at this point, and this is a huge advantage!
The best geneticists, microbiologists, bacteriologists and bio-engineers have been flowing there, enjoying enormous possibilities, prestige and generous salaries. And in effect, pollen-chuckers with their poorly bred F1s, that throw nanners as soon as your timer goes weird, will be soon out of business, smelling the napalm that burnt their market share to the ground.
The main objective of corporate breeding labs now is to come up with commercially viable cannabis strains, that possess immunity to pathogens such as Botrytis cinerea, which cause grey mould, and are stable for crucial traits.
As Nishan Karrasik explains: “A given variety wouldn’t have to be genetically homozygous across the genome, but could be stabilized for a series of defined traits. The breeder would decide upon the trait, or traits they wanted to be stabilized in their starting stock. Determining the current stability of the desired traits would determine the size of the population search, and the amount of generational work necessary.”
And he adds, that “flavor of the month clones are currently popular, cause there are large incentivizes for trading, which inevitably leads to the pests and pathogens. Cleaning and distributing through tissue culture is advantageous as is typical for varieties not yet stabilized in seed form.”
But not everyone has access to the elite cuts, nor the ability to hunt through hundreds or thousands of seeds to find that amazing cultivar. So as cost, scale, consistency and disease challenges mount, the need for stabilized, consistent seeds with specific characteristics will become paramount.
And in turn, these scaling and cost pressures will eventually carry more weight as legalisation starts rolling over EU and other countries as it’s happened in Canada. Having a diverse set of plants, which work for cultivators, extractors and consumers, will differentiate companies in their ability to cultivate at lower costs, and sell to a wider set of people.
If small and personal cultivation is allowed in new government legal systems, this will aid the genetic biodiversity of cannabis, but it’ll also preserve the personal experience of making your own fine ‘wine’. Legal systems, where only some big monopolies can function and survive, affect our personal freedoms and endangers diversity preservation in cannabis genetics”, summarizes Alan Dronkers.