The complex relationship between cannabis and alcohol just became even more complex. The yeast that humanity has used to ferment alcohol for over 10,000 years has now been hacked to produce cannabinoids and their medicinal and sometimes mild-altering effects found in cannabis. A University of California, Berkley team of scientists transformed a specific sugar in brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) called galactose into THC. The same process can also be used to produce CBD.

Potentially, this breakthrough in fermentation might enable manufacturers THC, CBD and other cannabinoids that are found naturally in trace amounts in a cheaper, more efficiently than normal traditional farming and cultivation. 

This kind of scientific innovation is also the hope for Canada’s legal cannabis market, but commercialization in a growing marketplace could easily be thwarted by the Canadian government’s draconian rules and attitudes towards a legal market and business innovation. 

From Beer to Bud

Biologist Jay Keasling and his team at UoC Berkley genetically modified several genes found in S. cerevisiae and added to others from five kinds of bacteria from the cannabis plant. In total 16 generic modifications were made to transform the sugar galactose into inactive THC or CBD. Both the THC and CBD activate when heated.

No plants needed but it’s GMO 🙁 

With many other teams and an entire pharmaceutical industryhellbent on synthesizing and scaling what is grown naturally, then capitalizing on those discoveries. While these innovations are likely absolutely needed to advance the cannabinoid pharma industry, consumers need to keep in mind these will be genetically modified and fully synthesized products as a result. 

It’s likely that the resulting synthesized cannabinoids will never make their way to consumer products and stay within the pharma medical markets, but remember this is GMO, and not anything that would naturally occur in nature. 

You can read the original article about this discovery on Nature magazine

Photo: Chuttersnap

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