Cannabis sequencing drama, what's it all about?

… as I really don’t know. That’s why I’m asking @Strainly to please chime in and maybe shed some light on the drama regarding Phylos, et al. What happened? What’s the core controversy? Where can I go to read up on it?
Thank you.


The reason for the uproar against Phylos is basically it:

-Phylos have always claimed that they’d never start breeding or tissue culturing, they are now doing both
-Phylos acquired massive data from breeders’ genetics through their sexing and genetic testing programs. They had never disclosed what and how they’d used this data when people PAID them to send them their data…
-Phylos made an announcement that they’re starting a massive data-driven breeding program last week, using the data acquired from their clients.
-Phylos had also created a nonprofit called Open Cannabis Project, which official mission is to protect breeders and growers from predatory patents… they have never disclosed that this nonprofit was theirs until they were confronted and had to admit. It is believed by many that Open Cannabis Project is simply a false flag nonprofit to acquire more data from breeders and growers to gain a competitive edge in the breeding space.
-Their has been an investors pitch deck (PDF doc describing Phylos’ strategy) circulating in the industry, where they are citing Syngenta and Pioneer as aspirational examples for their success.

In this video, you see Mowgli Holmes, Phylos CEO, explaining their strategy:

Long story short, a lot of breeders and growers are furious as they realize they’ve been misled to pay in order to submit the data pertaining to their breeding efforts (years of work), to a biotech company that is now working to put these same breeders out of business through an unfair competitive edge.


cool, and thank you @Strainly
My social media has been all abuzz about this, and it’s been unclear to me what was what as some of the smartest people in the room were still sifting through all the noise to get perspective.
I found this article as as well:

Holmes went on to say in a few years, all of the cannabis on today’s market would be replaced by optimized plants. He said those plants will be completely resistant to molds and mildew, while having their water consumption dialed in for whatever climate they will be grown in.

“We’re going to be the company who makes those [plants],” he said, “and I think this is why: So we have a really huge lead, we’ve been collecting data and IP for four years. We have really huge barriers to entry protecting us. I think the main ones are that it would be impossible for anyone else to collect this data set at this point… we are fully integrated in the cannabis industry, we have more trust in the cannabis industry than any other science company.”


This is worth your time.
Especially pay attention from 11:00 all the way to 16:00.

Phylos CEO basically explains how they acquired the data they needed from their testing clients.

He goes on explaining how this aggregated data now creates a barrier to entry protecting them from competition.

Their board of advisors are specifically appointed to facilitate a future acquisition (upon federal legalization) by one of the Big 4 Ag companies, which are Syngenta, Dow Dupont, Bayer and BASF.


This latest development regarding Phylos less-than-scrupulous data brokering has made for interesting cannabis conversation fodder. What does our @memberdirectory think this means for the future of cannabis data and breeding and, ultimately, confidence?


Crushing - at 14:49:00 when he talks about having the most “trust” in the cannabis industry, I cringed.


Sounds like a lawsuit for fraud in the making.


It is definitely an original and unique approach to the industry come the time and impact it is having on the population. If it catches wind there will be another competitive market to tend to.


I’ve been trying to remain quiet on this, but I think it’s important for me, as the director of the genetics program at Steep Hill to speak out. I’m doing so partially to distinguish ourselves from what has been going on related to this disclosure, but also to try to put in perspective what it takes to do the kind of work that Steep Hill, Medicinal Genomics and even Phylos do. Also, how the industry needs to change, fundamentally, with respect to the concept of IP and how the practices currently in place in the industry lead to this kind of thing happening.

First, let me say that Steep Hill has no breeding program. We have never done it and are actually precluded from it, due to us holding a license in the Independent Testing Lab category in the California regulations. Because of this, we can’t have ANY financial interest in ANY other license in the industry, at least in California. Steep Hill parent company is based in California, and it is the only Steep Hill (others are licensees) that performs genetic testing. So, other Steep Hill licenses offer genetics services by sending the cards they collect back to the parent company. Thus, Steep Hill won’t and CAN’T cultivate or breed. This is why we work with partners and build markers for breeders to use, LIKE the tools used in Big Ag.

Having gotten that out of the way, the next thing to address is data. Steep hill makes it clear up front. When you test with us, chemically or genetically, we WILL use your data in an aggregate manner. Meaning, we take all the data we’ve gotten from various testing put it into the old data cruncher and get interesting facts out that we turn in to breeding markers. Markers that we then offer to the entire industry so everyone can use them. Do you have to test with Steep Hill to get them? Well yes, but that’s because Steep Hill is the one doing all the analysis and developing models so that we can identify the breeding markers we have. We need to pay for that internal research, so we create IP around methods of identifying the markers, not the markers themselves, OR your genetics. In fact, using Doug’s Varin (highest THCVA producer to date) as an example, when we discovered that this strain was as special as it was, WE contacted the breeder who was UNAWARE of what he had and told him, hey you better do something with this, it’s one of a kind. That’s what a genetic PARTNER does. Uses the information that is accumulated using clients data, to help the client. What’s so interesting is that when we started this… people accused Steep Hill of stealing genetics and trying to become “Monsanto”. There were people all over California and Oregon saying that Steep Hill was stealing genetics. Quite Ironic.

So more on data. while this may sound like i’m being a jerk, but any one strain’s genetic data is pretty much worthless. Without being able to look at tens or hundreds of sequences and aligning them so you can identify points of difference you really have only a bunch of A’s G’s T’s and C’s. It isn’t until you see where the A, G, C and T’s differ by comparing a lot of different strains that you see anything worthwhile. So, Steep Hill says up front, if you test with us, this is what we do, and we will tell you if you have anything interesting. Further we give you all your data, chemical tests, genetics test, etc. It was using this approach that allowed us to release the first sex SUCCESSFUL sex test in the industry, and the first CBD test in the industry. We used our data to make tools that would help breeders do their job better and faster.

So let’s talk about the state of the industry now. Again, i’m going to come off as a jerk, but about 2.5 years ago i made a big stink about Biotech Institute LLC patents. I was one of the first if not the first to start saying they were a problem. That the industry, because of it’s open source nature, was creating a nightmare that, in conjunction with patents like the just mentioned, would leave the door open for Big Ag. This is the same thing that allowed Phylos to do what they did AND still not steal genetics. The reality is, as unfortunate as this whole thing is, and in no way condoning what Phylos did, the industry set it self up for this. We follow NO agricultural breeding practices, from either stabilizing cultivars to filing proper documentation prior to releasing a new cultivar, and then we put them on dispensary shelves for anyone to come buy at $10-$20 a clone. Phylos may not have stolen genetics. They may have gone right to the local dispensary and purchased the same strains they tested for people. That doesn’t make it any better, as they are still using the data they had to gain an advantage. But, gaining an advantage is not the same as stealing.

My previous rants were about the fact that Big Ag will come and eat us up, because we let them. We have no patents or PVP’s and we release clones for anyone… ANYONE includes Big Ag and Big Pharma. They will come to the SAME dispensaries that you and I go to, and buy up all the clones and go back to their labs where companies like Monsanto spend over 1 Billion dollars a year in research and they will fucking flatten us. They do what we do, way better AND faster. And we gave them an open invitation by not having matured as an industry to realize that IP and proper documentation is an important thing. This is not speculation. This is how it works in commercial agriculture. And Big Ag has been doing this, using the molecular tools, for a long time. They know how it’s done, in a way the majority of the industry doesn’t understand.

The runway for this, is the very nature of our industry, and the believe that the other industries will play by our rules when they come to the table. I’ve said this before. If you have unique chemovars, you should be using advanced tools to breed your ass off, and file as many PVP’s or plant utility patents as you can. That’s the way to keep this industry ours. Avoiding the issue and IP will just hand the industry to those we want to keep out.

So, yes, this whole situation is unfortunate, but it’s important to realize that (1) not all companies are doing the same thing, (2) the tools NEED to be developed by us, so WE can keep our space in this industry as it moves forward, and (3) the industry needs to be more diligent; in its approach to asking questions about what happens to their data, and applying themselves to creating IP for themselves. We NEED to build the picket fences around our property to keep our property safe and beautiful for all. that’s what patents give us, that picket fence around our property. And cause it’s OUR picket fence, we can open the gate to anyone WE choose.

I hope this helps shed some light on the situation, and helps people feel that they can still use some of these tools and trust some of the companies offering these services.


Great to hear from you @reggie. Your perspective on this subject is greatly appreciated.

How can companies work to re-establish trust?


I’ll be more concerned when Monsantos buys them out.

I’ve only been in the industry for 10 months and I already wish somebody was breeding out the genes that make powdery mildew and botrytis susceptibilities go up on my favorite varieties.


Hi @reggie what an honor to have you here. I recently listened to the part one of your two podcasts with Tad Hussey, very impressive. I strongly suggest anyone here to listen in on these extremely informative interviews, especially if you want to get a deep cut on cannabis genetics, and on what Steep Hill is doing. It also makes very clear what a star Reggie Gaudino is within our canna universe. Thanks for chiming in!


Hi @reggie ,

Thanks for chiming in. Only wished you had spoken up before. Been writing about this very threat for over 2 years now and many competent people could have helped with informing our industry better on these topics, by relaying the message. However, the rare answers I received were to convince me there was no risk…

Now, PVPs or Plants Breeders Rights (what we have in Canada) are simply not accessible to the majority of breeders in our industry. The only practical way (prove me wrong) to create a safe haven for breeders is open source licensing backed by a strong and independent nonprofit organization. Because only such a neutral and independent organization will be in a position to appropriately defend breeders’ interest in case of an IP infringement.

It’s one thing to get a PVP on your cultivar, it’s another battle to defend and enforce it through legal and attorney fees. Most breeders can’t afford that.

Currently trying to convince a major biodiversity protection nonprofit in Canada to issue an open source breeding license for those breeders who want effective and practical protection against those predatory companies.

Open Source Breeding is not popular because this concept has never been promoted by the big ag players, who sometimes lobbied to make it illegal. It is now becoming increasingly popular in Europe and this is time to bring it in North America. The cannabis cultivation community has the more than compatible culture to make it a standard.

BTW, you use the term open source above, while you mean public domain. A formal open source license on genetics would ensure tangible protection. No license (=public domain) doesn’t provide any protection. At the moment, cannabis genetics are in the public domain.

Thanks again for taking the time to chime in Reggie.


Monsanto doesn’t exist anymore, they were acquired by Bayer.
Phylos CEO calmly explains how they are uniquely positioned to get acquired by Bayer, Syngenta or Dow…
It’s a only a matter of time…


You are ABSOLUTELY correct. i did mean public domain. I didn’t mean to confuse with open source that has licensing as part of it. Thank you for that correction.


That is not completely accurate. Bayer is in fact the sole shareholder in Monsanto, however the Monsanto website exists, and they still do business as Monsanto, and refer to themselves as Monsanto on the website. The link below shows that they do include the Bayer logo, but they still clearly refer to themselves as Monsanto.


This was a very good read, probably some the best info I received from this cannabis community in a long time. Thx you very much.


I would like to hear what Mr. Clark and others feel about their IP now as property of the very people who proposed to protect it for the industry and the genetic diversity of the Genus. I personally am outraged and saddened by their deceit. This will not stand.



Did the video presentation released by Benzinga (Who the hell are they?) making its way onto the web on March 9th, cause Phylos to come out with their grand scheme on April 16th?

Over two years ago I was given a PDF presentation and it appears that they were really open with their investors about their overall plan, but not so much with the customers they were data mining.


So the path moving forward is to start creating fences, and yet it’s not exactly clear how we as a community start to do this.

The runway for this, is the very nature of our industry, and the belief that the other industries will play by our rules when they come to the table. I’ve said this before. If you have unique chemovars, you should be using advanced tools to breed your ass off, and file as many PVP’s or plant utility patents as you can. That’s the way to keep this industry ours. Avoiding the issue and IP will just hand the industry to those we want to keep out.

Where can we access these advanced tools so that we can start to protect ourselves? How do we as a community start to support each other in doing this? Where do I file a PVP?

There’s a battle already being waged, and being caught off guard we have this huge disadvantage, how to we flatten the battlefield, or even skew it in our favor?