I posted a message to a molecular biology newsgroup on the Internet the
other day, which read as follows:
"What I would like to know is how come you guys don't splice the
genes for tetrahydrocannabinol and the associated alkaloids present in
cannabis into the DNA of all fruits and vegetables, with the possible
exception of turnips, parsnips and persimmons? It may be that I know next
to nothing about this subject, but it seems to me that if you can pop a
gene from an arctic fish, for Christ's sake, into the DNA of the tomato
plant, you should be able to provide the great blessing for all mankind
which would result if everyone could LITERALLY get stoned out of their
gourds! Peace on Earth might result."
Got a reply right away from a major university research center:
"Of course, we've thought about it! The idea would be to first,
find out how THC is made in plants, that is, what enzymatic steps are
necessary to convert compound X to compound Y to THC. Once that is done
one would isolate the genes encoding those enzymes (which are proteins -
the only thing DNA does is encode proteins basically) which convert X to
Y, etc. Then move the genes around...
That last step is the easy part. The hard part is the first
business. Do you know how THC is synthesized by the plant? This is the way
you'd try and make a plant synthesize anything of use, like taxol.
At the moment this anti-cancer drug is purified from the bark of
the yew tree, and it's expensive. It would be cheaper, I'm guessing, to
make a transgenic plant do it, or a bacterium."
(I will protect the identity of this guy, although he didn't ask
me to do it.)
I wrote back: