When it comes to cannabis cultivation, an entire crop can be ruined by fungi, but scientists in Germany are using one fungus in particular to grow cannabinoids that until now were produced exclusively by the plant.

Which fungus is growing the two most commonly known cannabinoids, psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD)? Yeast.

On the heels of the announcement that yeast had been genetically engineered to produce opiods, which are normally only derived from the poppy plant, the University of Dortmund team published a research paper in the journal Biotechnology Letters, in September, documenting the discovery. The data regarding yeast which produces cannabidiol is unpublished at this time.

Oliver Kayser, a biochemist at the University of Dortmund and member of the research team, explained that they are eager to find a solution to the conflict facing European regulators who do not want to legalize cannabis cultivation, but cannot ignore that cannabinoids are medicinally effective. Kayser commented,

“They are in fear that these plants will be grown and will support some illegal farming.”

Yeast cannot compete with the production efficiency of the cannabis plant yet, however. For now, the yeast can only coax a minimal amount of THC, whereas a plant can produce upwards of 30 percent per dry weight.

“Cannabis is hard to beat.”

explained Dr. Jonathan Page, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia who participated in the research efforts with the University of Dortmund team.

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