"One of the fundamental problems in the cannabis industry is the lack of standardization. The use of clones contributes to this challenge," says Ido Margalit, CEO of BetterSeeds. The company's hemp seeds were Israel's first ever cannabis seeds to be shipped to a foreign country. This milestone achievement was largely thanks to BetterSeeds' contribution to ease the cannabis export regulations with the authorities. While it was quite the challenge to make such a change, much is expected from Israel's cannabis export to the United States. "Up to 30% of hemp cultivation is destroyed because it surpasses the THC limit. We believe that we will bring growers the solution for high-quality production with much less loss."
On the right: BetterSeeds CEO Ido Margalit
The importance of stable genetics
BetterSeeds specializes in the genetic improvement of medical and adult-use cannabis, as well as high CBD hemp varieties. Yet the Israeli regulations limited the hemp growing by imposing on it the medical cannabis regulations. "The US has the biggest hemp market, so it was very important for us to penetrate it. About 1.5 years ago, we acquired a hemp farm in San Diego, California, for the production of our hemp seeds. However, due to the Israeli law, which prohibited the export of cannabis propagating material, we were not able to export till now our products to our farm. One of the reasons we chose the US for our first export is that we already have a foot on the ground there in a major hemp market."
Israel's export was enabled due to the intensive efforts of Margalit, as head of the Medical Cannabis Seed Forum that resides at Israel's Chamber of Commerce Association's Seeds Division. The shipment comes as part of the implementation of Israeli government resolution no. 4490, which was updated in August 2021 to include the export of cannabis seeds from Israel. The move gives the Israeli medical cannabis industry a huge boost and is thought that it will lead to other international markets opening up to Israeli exports.
But the export is not just beneficial for the Israeli market and BetterSeeds themselves. "We believe that using our varieties will provide the US market with very high quality and high-value product. Basing your cultivation on a uniform and stable seeds will enable growers to cope with the different circumstances that make hemp cultivation very challenging. Unstable genetics are quickly affected by temperamental influences, such as the environment, making it challenging to not surpass the 0.3% THC limit. With up to 30% of hemp cultivation being destroyed because it surpasses the limit, we believe our stable seeds will provide growers the solution to decrease your chances of production loss."
At the moment, most US cannabis growers and, to some extent, hemp growers grow based on vegetative cloning or unstable seeds, which is part of the reason for growers' challenges, Margalit explains. "As it ages, any organism, even a plant, expresses genetics differently. You can have an excellent plant that expresses a cannabinoid profile that you're really content with. However, a year later, it expresses cannabinoid levels differently." Margalit explains that stable seeds, on the other hand, ensure uniformity after each and every generation, making them a great solution for growers.
The exported seeds will be part of a field trial at licensed commercial growers. "We are hopeful that this trial will generate positive results and impress the commercial farmers of hemp. I hope that once they are really impressed by the performance of our genetics, we will receive the orders." The growing season should end around September/October, after which BetterSeeds is expecting the first feedback that will hopefully lead to a broad, commercial offering in the US.
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