Colorado company claims it has developed world’s first zero-THC, high-CBD hemp cultivar

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Trilogene Seeds reports the “THC Null” cultivar simply “cannot make THC.”

A Colorado-based company claims it may have the solution for ensuring hemp does not run afoul of U.S. requirements related to THC: make sure the cultivar contains none of the psychoactive compound.

Hemp — which offers promise as a windfall for CBD production — needs to adhere to certain rules to be considered hemp at all.

The so-called 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed into law on Dec. 20 of that year, demands that hemp contain no more than 0.3 per cent THC “on a dry weight basis,” notes a fact sheet from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Having THC content above that amount would make the plants non-hemp cannabis, or marijuana, and, as such, illegal under federal U.S. law, per information from Brookings.

What is hot hemp?

According to the Indy Star, almost 20 per cent of Indiana’s hemp crop had to be destroyed in 2020 because THC levels measured between 0.41 per cent to 13 per cent.

Arizona witnessed a similar fate, with the Plant Services Division of the state’s Department of Agriculture reporting about 41 per cent of the plants it analyzed failed to keep THC levels below 0.3 per cent.

Across the U.S., New Frontier Data reported last summer that so-called hot hemp meant an average of 10.8 per cent of the crop’s acreage planted between 2018 and 2020 had to be ditched.

Growers who breach the federal requirement risk losing their crops and, perhaps, could even face charges.

The New Frontier information notes that under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “most recent Interim Final Rule for hemp producers, respective states, territories or tribes are now permitted to use traditional, on-farm practices (such as plowing, tilling or disking) for the disposal of a hot crop.”

Kicking it old school and leaving matters in farmers’ hands has produced a 93 per cent savings, the article cites the USDA as estimating.

What is this new THC Null cultivar?

Trilogene Seeds, a hemp seed genetics company in Colorado, suggests it may have identified a fix for the whole issue by going directly to the source.

The company reported this week that it “is introducing the world’s first hemp cultivar engineered to prevent THC production.” Its name is “Pandora” and Trilogene Seeds reports it has a 17 to 22 per cent CBD profile.

Although patent-pending, the company explains that what it calls “THC Null” cultivars “are not physiologically different from any other hemp. They simply cannot make THC.”

These were “developed by a team of university professors and bioengineering experts over a two-and-a-half-year period using RNA interference (RNAi) technology to silence the genetic pathways that produce THC in a hemp plant,” the company statement notes.

According to ThermoFisher Scientific, RNAi “refers to a phenomenon where small pieces of RNA can shut down protein translation by binding to the messenger RNAs that code for those proteins.”

What could these cultivars mean for hemp farmers?

Having THC-free hemp genetics “means the global hemp industry can finally move forward without fear of running afoul of THC-limiting laws,” Matt Haddad, CEO of Trilogene Seeds, says in the statement.

Haddad maintains “this varietal will also dramatically improve extraction efficiencies to optimize for CBD without THC limitations.”

With the THC Null trait, the company reports that “in unaltered hemp plants, CBD increases in step with THC.” That means “growers and processors will be able to work with much less hemp biomass to produce the same amount of CBD isolate,” Haddad says.

The company reports that “clone-only” varietal of Pandora will be available in the U.S. market this spring, with seeds for U.S. and international jurisdictions expected to be available this fall.

Haddad argues that “hemp has been under the iron fist of unreasonable government regulations and farmers have risked everything with hemp crops that went hot due to no fault of their own.”

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