overbreeding strains: how we've weeded out the benefits
Canna cultivation has evolved significantly over the years, with breeders continually striving to create new and unique strains. However, the pursuit of novelty and high potency has led to overbreeding.
Overbreeding refers to the excessive and often indiscriminate crossing of cannabis plants to achieve specific characteristics. While this approach may yield desired traits, it also poses a serious risk of breeding out the beneficial components of the plant.
One of the most concerning outcomes of overbreeding is the potential loss of medicinal properties in canna strains. Cannabinoids such as CBD and THC are well-known for their therapeutic effects, including pain relief, anti-inflammatory properties, and stress reduction.
However, excessive breeding for high THC content can lead to reduced CBD levels, diminishing the potential medicinal benefits of the plant. Balanced CBD-to-THC ratios have shown promise in treating various medical conditions, and losing this balance can be detrimental to patients seeking specific therapeutic effects.
The overemphasis on THC has caused growers to neglect other valuable cannabinoids and terpenes that work synergistically to create the "entourage effect". Breeding for high THC potency has not only compromised the integrity of the plant's medicinal properties but also presents health risks for consumers.
Recent studies have linked the use of high-potency THC products to cannabis use disorder, addiction, and an increased risk of developing cannabis-induced psychosis. This condition, characterised by hallucinations or delusions, can persist for months, especially in individuals with underlying mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
Breeding practices centred solely around maximising THC content have raised concerns about the genetic diversity and long-term viability of various strains. By prioritising THC over other cannabinoids and terpenes, growers have unintentionally sacrificed the natural balance found in landrace cannabis strains, which were rich in various beneficial compounds.
Moreover, the genetic modification of canna strains for high potency often involves the use of solvents and toxic chemicals, posing further dangers to consumers. The unregulated market and the race for higher THC levels have led to the creation of cannabis products that are far removed from their natural state.
Overbreeding also results in a limited gene pool, as breeders prioritise specific traits at the expense of genetic diversity. A reduced gene pool makes cannabis plants more vulnerable to diseases, pests, and environmental stress. Additionally, the loss of genetic diversity hampers the plant's adaptability to changing environmental conditions, increasing its susceptibility to future challenges, such as climate change or new pests.
When breeders continuously select for specific traits without considering the overall health of the plant, they may inadvertently weaken the plant's natural defences. As a result, overbred cannabis strains can become more susceptible to pests and diseases, making them less resilient and requiring increased pesticide use. This vulnerability not only harms the plant but also poses risks to consumers when harmful chemicals remain in the final products.
Another concern is terpenes. These are the aromatic compounds found in cannabis, which contribute to the plant's distinct flavours and aromas. Moreover, terpenes work synergistically with cannabinoids to enhance the therapeutic potential of cannabis. Overbreeding for specific cannabinoid profiles can lead to a loss of unique terpene combinations, affecting the overall sensory experience and medicinal efficacy of the strain.
Canna is a resilient and adaptable plant, able to grow in diverse environments around the world. However, overbreeding can limit this adaptability. Strains bred for specific conditions may struggle to thrive in different environments, reducing their potential to serve as versatile crops.
Recognising that high-potency canna should be reserved for specific medical purposes, such as the use of RSO (Rick Simpson Oil) by cancer patients, is critical. Establishing THC limits and enforcing responsible breeding practices will ensure that cannabis retains its therapeutic potential while minimising potential health risks.
High-THC strains that are overbred are, while well-known, limited in their benefits. By encouraging the growth and consumption of landrace strains, we will encourage the biodiversity of the plant, as well as the diversity of benefits. The answer doesn't seem straightforward, but understanding strains and their history can keep you informed when making the best decision for your health and wellbeing.
(Image - Alexis Rockman: The Farm)