GMO Weed? Connections Alleged Between Uruguay Marijuana Legalization, Monsanto and Soros

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Uruguay earlier this year became the first nation in the world to legalize the cultivation, sale and possession of marijuana. Now one German researcher is alleging that billionaire speculator George Soros supported legalization in that South American country as part of a plan for corporate agribusiness giant Monsanto to move into the cannabis trade.

Engdahl alleges, on the website of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) that Monsanto is already quietly at work on a project to patent a genetically modified cannabis plant in Uruguay. Since Soros played a pivotal role in Uruguay's legalization drive (he sits on the board of the Drug Policy Alliance), and also owns considerable Monsanto stock, Engdahl believes those two things are connected, and they point towards Monsanto involvement.

Soros' Open Society organization distributed $34 million last year, according to Engdahl, nearly $3.5 million of which was dedicated to marijuana legalization. Open Society funded the group Regulacion Responsable ("Responsible Control") in Uruguay; the group ran a nationwide advertising campaign for the successful legalization drive.

Engdahl alleges that Soros' involvement in Uruguayan legalization "is part of a much larger global project," and further than Monsanto quietly conducts research projects on marijuana and its active ingredient, THC, and how the plant can be genetically manipulated. Monsanto is, after all, the world's largest supplier of genetically modified seeds.

Back in 1998, the British firm GW Pharmaceuticals, which markets Sativex oral spray, containing THC and CBD, signed an agreement with Dutch seed company Hortapharm (owner of the world's largest collection of cannabis seed varieties). The agreement gives GW Pharmaceuticals the rigbht to use Hortapharm cannabis strains for their research, according to Engdahl.

The German pharmaceuticals company Bayer AG in 2003 signed an agreement with GW Bayer AG agreed to an exchange with Monsanto, where both companies agreed to share the results of their research. Monsanto thus has, according to Engdahl, "discreet access" to scientific studies on the cannabis plant and its genetic modification.

In 2009, GW announced it had succeeded in genetically altering a cannabis plant and patented a "new breed" of cannabis, Engdahl writes.

With cannabis cultivation now legally allowed in Uruguay, Engdahl says "one can easily imagine" that Monsanto sees a vast new market opening -- one they could potentially control with patented GMO cannabis seeds much as they currently do with the current market in soybeans.

President Jose Mujica of Uruguay has made it clear that he wants a unique genetic code for government-approved marijuana so that legal weed can be distinguished in order to "keep the black market under control."

GMO cannabis from Monsanto would, of course, make such control possible. Monsanto has for decades been researching genetically modified soybeans and corn.

Is Monsanto paving the way for the corporate giants of Big Pharma and Big Agriculture to replace natural strains of cannabis with their own patented GMO varieties?

Moving into marijuana could be seen as a logical next step for Monsanto. The company is reputedly investing millions of dollars into a new technology known as RNA interference (RNAi), which could be used to manipulate everything from the color of the plant to making it indigestible to insects, or resistant to certain herbicides (like the "Roundup Ready" versions of crops that Monsanto produces to withstand the herbicides the company sells).

Genetic modification through RNAi or other methods could, of course, be used to create larger, more potent marijuana plants -- and plants that could be distinguished from unauthorized, "black market" marijuana through genetic testing.

Graphic: Iowa City Marijuana Consortium