19 Apr 19
Lake County Record-Bee
Ron Kiczenski is a resident of Lucerne.
Are you the kind of person who takes it seriously when a Director of National Intelligence reports (in his February, 2016 report) to the Senate on possible national security threats, as in this April 25, 2016 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, by Daniel M. Gerstein, called “How genetic editing became a national security threat.” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper sent shock waves through the national security and biotechnology communities with his assertion, in his Worldwide Threat Assessment testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, that genome editing had become a global danger. He went so far as to include it in the report’s weapons of mass destruction section, alongside threats from North Korea, China’s nuclear modernization, and chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq. The new technology, he said, could open the door to “potentially harmful biological agents or products,” with “far-reaching economic and national security implications.”.
If you’re concerned about consuming or the labeling of GMO products, or you’re a consumer of “legal cannabis” products, or maybe you’re just a citizen who cares about national security, it might be concerning to you that the wave of cannabis legalization laws, as in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and more recently in California, do not require licensed cannabis cultivators to disclose information about genetically engineered cannabis (GEC, aka GMO cannabis, genetically edited cannabis, bio-engineered cannabis, genetically modified cannabis, and recombinant DNA cannabis, etc).
Washington State spokesperson Brian Smith said the lack of federal regulations for genetically engineered cannabis (GEC) was the reason for Washington’s missing regulations.
Colorado’s spokesperson Shannon Grey wrote that “Currently, there are no guidelines outlined in either the Medical Marijuana Code or the Retail Marijuana Code specific to genetically engineered marijuana.”, and that Colorado “aligned with federal guidelines wherever possible”, but gave no further reason for the missing GEC regulations.
In California, then Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom formed the “Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana policy” which was “formed in light of the likelihood that a marijuana legalization initiative will be placed on the 2016 California ballot, and that serious and thoughtful analysis must be conducted in order to identify significant policy challenges and offer possible solutions.”, and according to it’s web site, “The Commission is comprised of leading policymakers, public health experts and academics from across the state and the nation that have done significant work and research related to marijuana.”.
Yet, according to Rebecca Forée the Communications Manager for the CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing at the California Department of Food and Agriculture,”The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s cannabis cultivation regulations do not require licensed cannabis cultivators to disclose information about heirloom or genetically engineered varieties of cannabis.” The reason given for California’s lack of regulation was that “Proposition 64, the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, was enacted by the voters of California in 2016 and did not include those identification requirements for licensed commercial cannabis cultivators.”.
Many California cannabis growers and medical cannabis consumers claim to have expressed concerns of imminent danger of being permanently or irreversibly harmed in some way by the lack of regulations concerning genetically engineered cannabis to then Lt. Governor Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Commission, but insist they were “ignored and written off.”
The newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom’s Office did not respond when asked for comment on why the Commission failed to include recommendations for GEC(genetically engineered cannabis) regulations.
The reason for Oregon’s missing GEC regulations according to state spokesperson Mark Pettinger, was that along with the lack of federal regulations, they had “higher priorities.”
The one apparent common thread to have had some influence in every states process to create cannabis legalization laws is an organization called the Drug Policy Alliance. The DPA came into being in 1993 at the behest and funding of billionaire George Soros who has also had a long history of investment holdings in the biotech industry. When attorney Dave Kopilak, lead author writing Oregon’s 2014, measure 91, was asked why no GEC regulations, he responded with reasons why they didn’t want to complicate the ballot, and that they needed DPA financial backing, and at one point he simply stated that “George Soros doesn’t just go handing out checks.”
The DPA remained silent when given multiple opportunities to comment on the this article and the missing GEC regulations.
In December of 2018, Canadian researchers at the University of Toronto announced they had completed mapping the cannabis genome.
Canada does regulate for GEC, according to Christine at Media Relations, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Government of Canada, who wrote “The Government of Canada considers issues of safety to be of the utmost importance and maintains a regulatory system for products of agricultural biotechnology that provides appropriate risk-based oversight of plant products in Canada.” Christine also noted that “In Canada, all plants are eligible for protection under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, this includes genetically modified Cannabis plants.”
“To date the PBR Office has received 8 applications for Cannabis varieties”, but so far “No genetically engineered cannabis has been authorized by CFIA.”
The prevailing concerns of many growers seems to be that genetically engineered cannabis will cross pollinate and contaminate or “pollute the genetics of heirloom cannabis”.
Medical cannabis consumers have expressed the same concerns as growers, along with the added concern of possible harmful side effects of consuming a genetically engineered product.
Some growers exhibit enthusiasm about the potentials of GEC, while others following the non official “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy claim they are already gene editing to achieve “certain traits,” yet are not required to disclose genetic modifications to state government or to the public.
While this apparent breech in US bio-security is seemingly overlooked, billions of dollars are being spent into the long chain of “legal” cannabis related commerce in the United States. Medical and recreational consumers, the industry and it’s workers, even stock market investors will all be impacted in some way when the of lack of GEC regulations and the apparent resulting national security threat to all Americans becomes more publicly understood.
So at this point you might be asking, what are the feds doing about all this?
Considering that according the US government “The FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety and proper labeling of all plant-derived food and feed, including those developed through genetic engineering.”, my first call was to the FDA. The public affairs person at the FDA did not want to be quoted, but did say that the FDA had no jurisdiction over cannabis whatsoever, and that the DEA was the authority with jurisdiction, and so began the quest for federal oversight.
Contacting the DEA resulted in Barbara Carreno, Public Affairs Officer, DEA Headquarters, responding after a week in contemplation by the DEA legal team, to indicate that “DEA does not have jurisdiction or authority to regulate the genetic engineering of cannabis.”, she also wrote back that “the USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service is tasked with that.”, and offered this apparent observational comment that “no one at any level appears to be regulating this”.
Rick Coker, Public Affairs Specialist, at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, responded that “If APHIS Determines that a organism is not a plant pest, then the GE organism is not subject to the regulatory requirements of 7 CFR part 340, however, other federal regulations may still apply.”
Considering the national security implications it made sense to contact the NSA, here was the response from Greg Julian, Media Relations Chief, NSA/CSS Public Affairs, Strategic Communications, “Thanks for reaching out to the National Security Agency. However, you’ve got the wrong Agency as we have no oversight of this matter. I suggest you contact Health and Human Services,” in other words the FDA.
Being right back where I started with the FDA, I tried again and sent multiple email requests for comment as well as leaving phone messages, but there was no response.
At this point you might be asking how did we get to this point? It would be pointless to try and blame anyone quoted in this story, or any other Government employees who are for the most part simply trying to do their jobs according to the laws that elected representatives hand them.
Going back to the origins of the how and why, it becomes clear that Congress created the CSA (Controlled Substances Act), which provided for the authority to schedule substances to be restricted to varying degrees from public use. The problem here is that the CSA allows for scheduling natural plants as “controlled substances.”
This Congressional overreach in authority has resulted in numerous consequences aside from the current jurisdictional quagmire manifested into an apparent clear, present, and ongoing bio-threat to the national security of the United States as well as our continental neighbors, and possibly the world. The foremost consequence of scheduling natural plant life, is that it nullified an American’s self evident, naturally endowed, basic human right to access, grow, and use natural plants. At this point in America, to legally grow so much as a carrot you are exercising a “civil right,” not a human right. So in effect the Congress scheduled a basic human right into obscurity.
Because the basic human right was disparaged by Congress, we lost access to critically invaluable resources, and incalculable trillions to the economy over the many decades of malfeasance. The 1938 Popular Mechanics article “New Billion Dollar Crop,” described a coming boom to agriculture at the promise of new technology to process an age old crop, and transforming its economic potential into unimaginable numbers for 1938. Congress extinguished any chance at fulfilling the predictions of the Popular Mechanics article by enacting the Marijuana Tax Act, which was the first reach at disparaging this basic human right to access, grow, and use natural plants.
There’s no shortage of folks to blame for all this because we are all to blame.
Lawmakers and their constituents have used the “stoner” vs. “refer madness” mentality to simply kick the issue back and forth in a diversion to maintain the status quo for decades, leaving the mess for future generations.
I think the founders of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution would agree that we as citizens have also been sorely to blame in our lack of due diligence to maintain our naturally endowed rights.
Instead of howling for civil rights and legalization, folks should have been rereading the Declaration and engaging the Constitution in federal court in effort to restore and protect their basic human rights through case law, but they haven’t.
In America, if you have no basic human right to access, grow, and use natural plants, then there is no basis in law by which to protect natural plants or the broader natural heritage from cross pollination contamination from plants that have been bio-engineered, privately patented, and enjoy the full scope of protection under intellectual property laws.
The most relevant question remains, how do we fix this mess?
At some point Congress will step in and remedy the issue of unregulated GEC through some federal legislation that legalizes cannabis to some degree by removing it from the CSA, but even that would be a further misstep and would continue to divert from the root cause and the problem will continue.
For example Oregon attorney Dave Kopilak relayed that some people in Oregon intend on floating a measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms, also a schedule 1 controlled substance. If “magic” mushrooms were legalized in Oregon, then we are right back in the same circumstances of no federal oversight or regulations for bio-engineering “shrooms.” In other words, DEA has exclusive jurisdictional authority over all schedule 1 “substances.” Any natural life form listed as a schedule 1 controlled substance is outside the jurisdictional oversight authority of federal agencies that regulate for gene editing or GMO’s. Therefore, as long as natural life forms are considered to be schedulable under the CSA, we will continue to have this gap in the law and this bio-threat problem will likely be reoccurring.
It is unlikely Congress will correct their own mistake of scheduling away our human right to access, grow, and use natural plants, and so it seems just as unlikely that Congress will move on behalf of present or future generations to protect the genetic integrity of our natural heritage from cross pollination contamination with privately patented and protected bio-engineered life.
So it looks like the only way to get America back on track is through relentless civil litigation that begins with challenging governments assumed authority to schedule natural plant life or any natural life forms whatsoever, and moving forward on the basis that such overreach has disparaged a self evident fundamental natural human right.
Once the basic human right to access, grow, and use natural plants is restored and protected, it thereby would establish the basis for litigating to protect the genetic integrity of natural heirloom plants and all of our natural heritage from this present and ongoing bio-threat of cross pollination contamination forever polluting the natural gene pool we all swim in.
I guess we should round everything off by circling back to a last stop at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. When asked who’s doing what about the apparent breech in national security, Barry Borie, Media Spokesperson, ODNI/Office of Strategic Communications wrote back “I believe you will find what you’re looking for in the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment, page 16.” Here’s what page 16 of the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment had on the topic: “Rapid advances in biotechnology, including gene editing, synthetic biology, and neuroscience, are likely to present new economic, military, ethical, and regulatory challenges worldwide as governments struggle to keep pace. These technologies hold great promise for advances in precision medicine, agriculture, and manufacturing, but they also introduce risks, such as the potential for adversaries to develop novel biological warfare agents, threaten food security, and enhance or degrade human performance.”
Mr. Borie wrote one more sentence: “As we strived for maximum transparency in the report, we won’t be able to offer more than this.”