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Revolutionary Breakthrough: USDA Endorses THC-Free, Genetically Engineered Hemp for U.S. Cultivation

Updated: Mar 31

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has endorsed a new genetically altered hemp strain, known as "Badger G," created by Wisconsin researchers, for cultivation across the nation, citing its safety and minimal pest risk in comparison to other crops. Unlike traditional hemp, Badger G is remarkable for its inability to produce THC or CBD, instead focusing on an increased production of CBG, a different cannabinoid. This development marks a significant step forward, following a previous endorsement by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for a different hemp variant with reduced THC and CBC levels.

Developed by the University of Wisconsin's Crop Innovation Center, Badger G's genetic modification involves the removal of the CBDAS gene, effectively erasing CBD/CBDA and THC/THCA from its profile. This breakthrough promises substantial agricultural and regulatory advantages by increasing CBG/CBGA levels and eliminating THC/THCA, addressing the issue where approximately 25% of U.S. hemp crops are discarded for exceeding the 0.3% THC threshold established by the 2018 Farm Bill.

In granting its approval, APHIS determined that Badger G does not present a greater plant pest risk than its conventional counterparts, freeing it from the restrictions under GMO regulations. This decision opens new avenues for hemp farming, ensuring compliance with federal thresholds and potentially revolutionizing the industry's focus on cannabinoid production.

Parallel to these advancements, the USDA has been proactively engaging with the hemp sector, offering updated guidance and launching initiatives like the "Hemp Research Needs Roadmap" to highlight key industry research areas. This proactive stance is part of a broader effort to integrate hemp more fully into the agricultural landscape, buoyed by its legalization under the 2018 Farm Bill and growing interest in its diverse applications.

The federal landscape is also adapting to the evolving status of cannabis, with research funded to distinguish between hemp and marijuana, thus aiding law enforcement. Moreover, regulatory changes are afoot, with discussions around amending federal hemp rules to address market needs and legal ambiguities, particularly concerning the sale of intoxicating hemp products and the industry's regulatory framework.

These developments reflect a dynamic period for the hemp industry, grappling with regulatory challenges but also benefiting from significant research and policy attention. As the sector continues to mature, the implications for agriculture, law enforcement, and the broader economy are profound, signaling a transformative phase in the utilization and perception of hemp in the United States.


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