Colorado hemp seed genetics company Trilogene Seeds has introduced what it’s calling the world’s first hemp cultivar engineered to prevent THC production.
A cultivar is a plant or group of plants of a naturally occurring species whose breeding is manipulated to enhance or suppress certain characteristics. The transformed plants are nearly always the result of human cultivation – often unable to be grown with the original plant’s seeds.
The patent pending “THC Null” trait was developed by a team of university professors and bio-engineering 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.
THC Null cultivars are not physiologically different from any other hemp. They simply cannot make THC — the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant, including marijuana, and in minimal amounts, hemp.
The introduction of THC-free hemp genetics means the global hemp industry may be able to move forward without fear of running afoul of THC-limiting laws, according to Trilogene Seeds CEO Matt Haddad.
Hemp farmers risk losing their crop and the threat of criminal charges if their hemp produces more THC than legally allowed. In the U.S, hemp farmers are subjected to a strict 0.3% limit on THC. By comparison, marijuana typically contains 20% or more THC.
“This varietal will also dramatically improve extraction efficiencies to optimize for CBD without THC limitations,” Haddad said. According to New Frontier Data’s “Hot vs. Not? Disparities in U.S. Hemp Harvests,” nearly 9.0% of the 70,530 hemp acres planted in the U.S. in 2020 went hot – the term for exceeding the allowable THC threshold of 0.3%.
“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,” Haddad said. “Trilogene Seeds’ THC Null trait is the result of applying cutting-edge technological tools to address the key issue stifling the growth of the hemp industry.”
The THC Null trait also makes CBD hemp production more efficient, the company said. In unaltered hemp plants, CBD increases in step with THC. Therefore, hemp cultivars could only produce relatively low amounts of CBD or other non-psychoactive cannabinoids or terpenes before they breached THC thresholds.
Now, however, growers and processors will be able to work with much less hemp biomass to produce the same amount of CBD isolate, Haddad said.
Trilogene’s first THC Null cultivar, “Pandora,” has a 17-22% CBD profile and will be available as a “clone-only” varietal this spring in the U.S. market. Seeds for the U.S. and international markets will be available in the fall of 2022.