CANNABIS DNA PROJECT
Greetings from the International Hemp Association in Amsterdam. We are writing to tell you about an exciting research program using modern DNA analysis to build a family tree for Cannabis, and to request your participation.
We are collaborating with a US-based group working on a definitive large-scale phylogenetic study of the evolution of Cannabis. Key researchers include Mowgli Holmes, the chief scientific officer at Phylos Bioscience, Rob DeSalle, a professor of evolutionary biology at Columbia University and curator at the American Museum of Natural History.
Presently, the team is building a high-resolution map of the Cannabis genome, based on a modern hybrid THC/CBD strain, using PacBio long-read Next-Gen Sequencing (NGS). The map will serve as a reference key for analysis of thousands of other accessions using an SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) NGS protocol called GBS (Genotyping By Sequencing) allowing high-resolution characterization of each accession.
So far, the group has sequenced over 400 drug-type Cannabis samples. DNA extraction equipment is installed in nine Cannabis testing labs in six US states, and we continue to gather modern hybrid drug varieties. In the next month the group will finish collecting and sequencing our first 1000 samples. In order to collect data from ancient seeds the group is modifying protocols used for sequencing fragmented Pleistocene DNA samples, developing protocols to work with single seeds, and adding a Whole Genome Amplification step to increase DNA yield.
In two or three months we hope to have a provisional relationship map worked out that we can put on the web and will let us ID modern strains and hopefully at least test theories concerning the evolution of Cannabis.
Within six months we will analyze additional modern cultivars plus traditional landraces and possibly herbarium sheets and archeological materials. From there on we will add to the live database which will continue to grow as more samples are received although the architecture should not change. Genome data will be studied via network theory to address the issues of hybridization and reticulation in the phylogeny.
Cannabis is an incredibly varied genus made up of a myriad of local landrace varieties and modern cultivars as well as their feral and wild relatives. This research will generate a huge amount of sequence data and unique SNPs spread over many thousands of samples, and we feel confident we can resolve the evolution of Cannabis under domestication.
To further our study and create as complete an evolutionary tree as possible we need seeds collected overseas (or reproduced domestically) and have not been interbred with modern drug hybrids. We are interested in ALL Cannabis whether grown for fiber, seed or drug production as well as feral and wild populations. We can now collect sufficient high-quality DNA for analysis from a single seed. And there is no requirement to grow the seeds, so we can also use dead seeds. Many conscious travelers, marijuana users and growers collected seeds that they never got around to sowing, and now years later they are dead. Dead seeds are useless to growers and breeders, but they still contain valuable genetic information that can provide us with deeper insights into Cannabis’s evolution. It is also legal for us to send dead non-viable seeds to our lab in the USA by post.
If you have any seeds you feel may be of interest (living or dead) and want to contribute to this fascinating research feel free to contact us, just PM SamS at IC. We will provide a Netherlands PO Box for you to send the seed samples to us and we will provide an optional questionnaire about each batch of seeds. Batches can range from just a single to 25+ seeds.
As research progresses we will share data with you about any accessions you provide. Upon completion the results will change how we all look at Cannabis, and we will better understand the heritage of modern Cannabis cultivars. Growers will be able to see how their varieties (as well as traditional landraces sent by contributors) fit into the big picture – to determine the landrace origins of modern hybrids (ex., Jamaican, Mexican, Colombian, etc.) and explore deeper evolutionary relationships. Fascinating, eh?
If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.
All the best,
Rob Clarke and Sam Skunkman
Many people have asked us questions about our projects. The questions below are the ones we hear again and again. We want our work to be good for everyone involved, and we intend to be transparent about how and why we’re doing it.
PHYLOS BIOSCIENCE DNA PROJECT FAQ
Why is Phylos sequencing the DNA of all these Cannabis strains?
A few reasons. First we have some scientific questions we just want answered. We want to know how Cannabis has evolved, what its history was like, and how it has co-evolved with humans. And we want to know what domestication does to the shape of evolution.
We also want to understand today’s crazy mix of hybrid strains. We want to know where they came from, why they’re so different, and what makes each one unique.
But the reason that will probably affect most people is that we want to change the Cannabis industry into a modern, legitimate marketplace, where people actually know what they’re getting. We think this is the only way.
Will Phylos make and sell genetically modified Cannabis?
No. Absolutely not.
Will someone else make and sell genetically modified Cannabis?
Maybe. But it won’t be us. And it won’t make much sense to do it, because it is so easy to create amazing strains of Cannabis using traditional breeding techniques.
Will Phylos patent the strains that are submitted? Doesn’t sequencing the DNA of something let you control it or patent it?
We won’t patent the strains that are submitted. We don’t want to, and we couldn’t. Here are a few important facts about patents and plants:
* Sequencing the DNA of something does NOT let you patent it. In fact, after the court cases <https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-398_1b7d.pdf>Assoc. for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics and <https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-1150.pdf>Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., it is no longer possible to patent naturally occurring DNA sequences at all.
* Cannabis strains cannot be patented, at least not now. To apply for a plant patent you have to declare that you successfully grew your new Cannabis variety somewhere on U.S. soil. The patent office will not grant claims that rest on violations of federal law.
* Intellectual property protection over a plant variety can also be obtained through the USDA Plant Variety Protection Office. But only for plants on their official list. Cannabis is not on that list, and won’t be until it is federally legal.
* Only things that are NEW can be patented. Once something is public and known about, it’s too late. Once something has been sold commercially, it’s too late. Even if Cannabis strains could be patented, all the existing strains are now in the public domain, and will stay there forever. Which is a good thing.
But doesn’t Monsanto want to patent all the Cannabis strains in the world and then make it illegal for me to grow any of them?
Probably. But existing strains can’t be patented.
What will Phylos do with the information it collects from sequencing the DNA of different Cannabis varieties?
We will use it to construct a map of all the different strains. We will publish this and make the data freely available to the research community. The individual data from each sample will also be freely available to the person who submitted it.
Last edited by Sam_Skunkman; 12-13-2014 at 08:09 AM..