Imagine buying cannabis seeds the way conventional farmers do, choosing varieties with guaranteed germination rates and profiles – with the added bonus of the seeds being legal to sell in any state and internationally.
It’s a tantalizing prospect and one that is getting closer to reality thanks to legal hemp breeding.
This spring, a Dutch and Italian seed breeder, Enecta, became the first to get a flower/cannabinoid variety of cannabis accepted into the European Union catalog of common plant varieties, a milestone that will for the first time allow farmers to buy cannabis seeds bred to produce a cannabinoid profile guaranteed by government agriculture authorities.
The new cannabis variety, called Enectarol, isn’t the first certified hemp variety; the EU and Canada have long verified fiber and grain hemp varieties.
What makes Enectarol different is that it was bred to make a cannabinoid.
Enectarol is a bushy cannabis variety that produces cannabigerol, or CBG, called the “mother cannabinoid” because it is the precursor for other cannabinoid production in cannabis plants, including THC and CBD.
CBG on its own is getting attention for possible anti-inflammatory properties and early in-vitro research showing it could inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors.
Last year, the European Commission approved the use of CBG in over-the-counter cosmetics, a ruling that puts Europe ahead of the United States and Canada.
To find out more about how Enecta developed a certified cannabinoid variety, and how long it will take to see other cannabinoid-producing plants win government approval, MJBizDaily caught up with the company’s co-founder and chief science officer, Jacopo Paolini.
What’s the big deal about getting a cannabinoid producer in the EU catalog of common plants?
For Enecta, the main business of the plant is to extract CBD and CBG.
Before, the oil market in Europe was all based on varieties that were developed for fiber and for grain, not for extract.
Until we entered (the catalog) with this new variety, all the extracts came from a variety that may not have a good cannabinoid profile for the extract markets or not been tested for the extract market.
Being in the catalog, we can give our clients the best quality not only on the level of cannabinoids but also on the terpene profile on the full spectrum of the plant.
It took almost five years of research to reach this point.
Now, a farmer can buy seeds in a legal way. So you can be sure about the result.
When you buy seeds from the (illicit) market, you don’t know the level of THC, you don’t know exactly how the plant will perform.
Now, you can buy a variety legally and be sure that if you use the seeds and cultivate following some rules, the final result is 90% guaranteed, something (the illicit market) cannot really offer.
Are you seeking certification from the U.S. version, called the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA)?
Definitely. I think it will take maybe another year.
Your company has also submitted a CBD variety for European certification. What’s the next cannabinoid on your radar?
We still believe that CBD will be the main player in the European market for the next five, six years.
But to be ready for what will come next, you know, we want to start to study CBG more. Because in CBG, you can find the full chain of cannabinoids.
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One we are looking at is CBDV. We have some studies that it works quite well against epilepsy. We need to stabilize the variety.
We also want to try to have CBN. It’s quite good for sleeping.
I think next year, we can start to try the first outdoor trial (of CBN). And if the results will be good, we will start the process of registration.
What are current market conditions for selling cannabis genetics in Europe? Where are you selling Enectarol?
It’s quite a mess.
You can find really good variety. But they are totally from the (illicit) market.
Maybe they sell you a variety with high CBD, but it has the label of a fiber variety.
And it’s a problem for the farmers, because the farmers buy the seeds but really don’t know what is inside.
Maybe it’s 7% CBD or maybe not. You have no guarantee of the result.
Our main markets today are Spain, Greece, Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy.
How is the war in Ukraine affecting cannabis companies in Europe?
I really hope this madness will end soon. Because, you know, we are in a modern age, and this is something that is bad for everyone.
For the cannabis market, the problems are on the raw materials, because materials, like fertilizer, like plastic, everything now costs more than double.
This is a problem for the farmers. Farmers are suffering a lot because of the cost of gasoline, the cost of electricity, the cost of fertilizing.
It’s strangling all the farmers here in Italy and in every other country in Europe.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Kristen Nichols can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.